Art Therapy for Teens and Young Adults

Art therapy is a modality that uses the creation of art as a form of psychotherapy. Innercept includes art therapy in our approach to treating mental health disorders in teens and young adults. This therapeutic practice is engaging for our residents and offers many benefits including, stabilization, self-expression, and development of key life skills. Learn more about art therapy for teens at Innercept.

What is Art Therapy?

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Art therapy utilizes creative processes and artistic expression to enhance mental, emotional, and psychological well-being. It involves engaging in art-making activities under the guidance of a trained art therapist. Using various art materials and techniques, individuals can explore and express their thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

Art therapy at Innercept creates a safe and supportive environment for self-expression, reflection, and personal growth. This type of therapy may involve drawing, painting, sculpting, collage, and other forms of artistic expression. All of which facilitate healing, self-discovery, and emotional exploration. It can be used as therapy, or art can be used in talk therapy to facilitate communication between the patient and their therapist.

What are the Benefits of Art Therapy for Teens and Adolescents?

Art therapy offers a unique and engaging approach for teens and adolescents with mental health issues or behavioral problems. Through artistic expression, it promotes emotional well-being, communication, problem-solving, and self-regulation skills. It can empower teens and young adults to navigate challenges, gain insight, and foster personal growth.

Emotional Expression and Self-Awareness

Art therapy provides a creative outlet for teens and adolescents to express complex emotions that may be difficult to talk about, such as trauma. Through the use of various art materials, teens can visually represent their experiences, allowing for a deeper understanding and awareness of their emotions. This process fosters emotional expression, validation, and a sense of empowerment as they gain insight into their own feelings and experiences.

Stress Reduction and Relaxation

Engaging in art-making can have a calming and soothing effect on teens and adolescents, reducing stress and anxiety levels. The process of creating art helps shift the focus away from distressing thoughts and emotions, providing a form of relaxation and promoting a sense of mental well-being. This makes art therapy a useful tool in our stabilization program. It can serve as a healthy coping mechanism for managing stress and improving overall emotional resilience.

Improved Communication and Self-Esteem

Art therapy encourages nonverbal communication and can be particularly beneficial for individuals who struggle with verbal expression or have difficulty articulating their thoughts and feelings. Art provides a safe space for self-expression, enabling teens and adolescents to communicate through images, symbols, and metaphors. This can enhance their self-esteem as they discover new ways to communicate and express themselves, fostering a sense of confidence and self-worth.

Problem-Solving and Coping Skills

Art therapy offers opportunities for creative problem-solving and exploring alternative perspectives. Through the art-making process, teens and adolescents can experiment with different approaches, try new techniques, and navigate challenges within their artwork. These problem-solving skills can be translated into real-life situations, preparing teens and young adults in our program to transition back to regular life. The development of problem-solving and coping skills enables our residents to become more independent.

Emotional Regulation and Self-Control

Art therapy provides a structured and supportive environment for teens and adolescents to develop emotional regulation and self-control skills. Engaging in art-making allows them to process and release intense emotions in a safe and contained manner. As they learn to manage their emotions during the creative process, they gain valuable skills that can be applied to their daily lives, improving emotional regulation and impulse control.

What To Expect From Art Therapy at Innercept

An art therapy session for a teen or young adult typically involves communication with a therapist, the creation of art, and reflection. The art therapist will start by establishing a relationship with the teen or young adult. This helps create a comfortable space for them to open up and express themselves freely. After discussing goals and learning more about the teen’s unique needs for treatment, the therapist introduces a variety of art materials such as paints, markers, clay, collage materials, or digital tools, allowing the individual to choose the medium they feel most drawn to. Providing a range of options encourages creative exploration and accommodates different artistic preferences.

Next, the teen or young adult can begin to make art. Their therapist may provide prompts, suggestions, or techniques to help guide them through the process. Once they complete the artwork, the therapist encourages a reflective discussion about it. This can involve exploring the symbolism, emotions, and personal significance behind the artwork.

The art therapy session concludes with a discussion of the artwork, key insights, and any takeaways from the session. The therapist may offer suggestions for continued exploration or provide resources for the individual to further engage in creative self-expression outside of therapy. They also plan for future sessions, using the individual’s progress, goals, and evolving needs.

Art Therapy Techniques

Art therapy encompasses a range of approaches and techniques that utilize art materials and creative processes to support individuals in expressing themselves, exploring emotions, and promoting personal growth. Art therapy is very adaptive and enables us to deliver on the Innercept difference that makes our programs so unique. Here are some types of art therapy commonly used:

Visual art therapy: This involves various art forms such as painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, and printmaking. Individuals can create visual representations of their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, allowing for self-expression and exploration.

Music therapy: Music therapy utilizes music and sound as a medium for self-expression and emotional release. It may involve listening to music, playing musical instruments, singing, or composing music to promote relaxation, emotional processing, and communication.

Dance/movement therapy: This approach encourages individuals to express themselves through movement and dance. It focuses on the mind-body connection, promoting self-awareness, emotional expression, and physical well-being.

Drama therapy: Drama therapy incorporates theatrical techniques, role-playing, and improvisation to help individuals explore and work through personal challenges, build self-confidence, and enhance interpersonal skills.

Poetry/writing therapy: This form of therapy involves using poetry or creative writing as a means of self-expression and reflection. Writing can help individuals process emotions, gain insight, and explore personal narratives.

Digital art therapy: With the advancement of technology, digital art therapy has emerged as a medium for self-expression. It involves using digital tools such as tablets, computer software, or online platforms to create visual artwork or explore digital media.

Expressive arts therapy: Expressive arts therapy combines various art forms, allowing individuals to engage in multiple creative modalities. It can involve integrating visual arts, music, movement, drama, and writing within a therapeutic context.

What Does Art Therapy Help Treat?

Art therapy has been effective as a supplemental treatment for many mental health conditions and behavioral problems that are common in teens and young adults. The creative and non-verbal nature of art therapy allows for individualized and holistic approaches, which help support teens in their unique therapeutic needs and promote overall well-being.


Art therapy can provide an outlet for teens to express and process their feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness. Engaging in art-making activities can promote a sense of accomplishment, self-expression, and positive emotions, helping alleviate symptoms of depression.

Anxiety Disorders

Art therapy offers a creative means to reduce anxiety and manage symptoms of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and phobias. The art-making process can foster relaxation, mindfulness, and a sense of control, providing a healthy outlet for anxious thoughts and promoting emotional well-being.

Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Art therapy can help teens process traumatic experiences and manage symptoms related to PTSD. Art-making offers a non-verbal way to express and work through traumatic memories. It promotes healing, resilience, and a sense of empowerment for teens and young adults.

Eating Disorders

Art therapy can be beneficial in treating eating disorders by allowing teens to explore body image issues and express their emotions related to food and their body. This helps develop a healthier relationship with their bodies. Artistic expression can facilitate self-acceptance, body positivity, and support the exploration of alternative coping mechanisms.

Self-Esteem and Self-Image Issues

Art therapy supports the development of a positive self-image and improves self-esteem in teens. Through art-making, they can explore and challenge negative self-perceptions, celebrate their strengths and accomplishments, and develop a greater sense of self-worth and confidence.

Behavioral Issues

Art therapy can assist in addressing behavioral problems by providing alternative outlets for self-expression, promoting emotional regulation, and teaching coping skills. At Innercept we treat ADHD and OCD in teens and young adults and find that art therapy can help manage unwanted behaviors or irregular thought patterns. Teens can learn to communicate their feelings and needs in healthier ways, reducing impulsivity and developing more adaptive behaviors.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Art therapy can be particularly effective in engaging and connecting with teens on the autism spectrum. Art activities offer structured and sensory-rich experiences that enhance communication, social skills, and self-expression.

Stress and Anger Management

Art therapy provides a constructive means for teens to manage and express stress and anger. Engaging in art-making activities can help reduce tension, process difficult emotions, and develop healthy coping strategies for managing stress and anger.

Art therapy Program at Innercept

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Innercept incorporates art therapy into our comprehensive treatment approach as a tool to help stabilize and treat teens and young adults facing complex mental health diagnoses. Our dedicated team of professionals understands the unique challenges that arise during this stage of life and recognizes the transformative potential of art therapy.

Art therapy sessions allow teens and young adults to tap into their natural creativity and communicate their thoughts and feelings. This therapeutic modality helps individuals navigate difficult emotions, process trauma, improve self-esteem, and develop healthy ways of expressing themselves.

At Innercept, our experienced art therapists work closely with residents, tailoring art therapy sessions to address specific treatment goals and individual needs. Through the use of various art materials and techniques, our therapists facilitate self-discovery, emotional growth, and personal transformation. Art therapy complements our approach to treating individuals wholly, which combines evidence-based therapies, recreational activities, and a nurturing residential environment.

To learn more about how Innercept’s art therapy program can support you or your teen on a journey to recovery, reach out to our admission counselors today. They’re available to confidentially answer your questions and help determine if Innercept would be a good fit for your teen or young adult. Fill out our contact form to take the first step towards healing and lasting well-being.

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