Creative Expression Holds Many Benefit
Q: How do “creative kids camps” (especially an art-focused one like yours) benefit mental health?
A: Art can have a powerful and positive impact on a child’s life. The best part is, art is something everyone can participate in, along with [gaining] a sense of belonging, comfort, encouragement, healing, and inspiration. In addition, artistic expression may decrease anxiety, feelings of anger and depression. The creative art process can also enhance cognitive abilities, foster greater self-awareness and help children regulate their emotions. There is something beneficial for everyone’s mental health in the world of art!
Q: Have you seen the state of mental health change in kids going to your camps pre- vs. post-pandemic?
A: Engaging in art camps along with the social aspect with activities and interaction can help with major challenges such as overcoming the pandemic. There has been an increase in anxiety, depression and behavioral changes in children post-pandemic due to the disruptions in their pre-COVID routines, along with the repercussions of social isolation, all which could have had implications on a child’s mental health.
Q: Please describe what you’ve seen.
A: Developmental differences, such as subtle changes in attention, speech, lack of concentration, productivity of school work/tasks, movement, mental stress and mood. Parents mainly reported seeing differences in their child in regard to anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, trouble focusing and feeling down and confused with the transition, etc. However, art can help as a great coping mechanism and skill to carry and utilize. Art can be an oasis for children who are struggling.
Q: Have you seen camp benefit kids’ mental health?
A: Yes, definitely! And I work with each individual tailoring the art especially for them as well as building on their skills and interests to fall in love with the inspirational world of art and all its mental health benefits.
Q: How so?
A: The art-making process allows for expression without words, helps establish safety, creates opportunities for coping, and offers a way to manage feelings, thoughts and experiences for future exploration and insight and of course healing. Art gives us the ability to express ourselves. Through that expression, we communicate by drawing on our own unique emotions, thoughts and experiences. When you see and study another’s art, you’re seeing the world through their eyes. When you create, you’re letting the world see through yours.
Q: Success stories would be great.
A: Along with all the benefits I’ve mentioned so far, at camps I’ve seen a lot of how creating art can not only help with self-care but also self-love. The art validates the uniqueness of an individual, which increases a sense of accomplishment and feeling of positive self-worth. At camps it’s also a social experience for kids interacting with others who are different and unique in their own way and they not only make new friendships, but creating art together also has proven to support a sense of social identity, encourages goal-directed behavior, and enhances social resilience. I love watching the kids grow over the years to love art and all it has done for them. Personally, creating art daily as a child (and into adulthood) has helped me immensely. It is so very therapeutic!
Q: What have you done to help meet the current mental health needs of kids?
A: I try my best to guide and utilize art in promoting positive self-esteem and mental health by allowing children to truly be themselves without judgment. Creating art with the children and getting them to fall in love with what they enjoy, allows them to express, understand and develop their feelings, which in turn helps in regard to mental health. I encourage the skills of creativity and imaginative thinking, which are linked to long-term professional success. Art in a sense pushes children to engage in out-of-the-box thinking and can help them hone their creative problem-solving skills.
Q: Have you had many parents inquire about mental health support for kids?
A: A child’s mental health and well-being, as well as us of all ages, is of utmost importance. I feel all kids, just as we all were, in some way were affected by COVID times and can all use some form of support and definitely art in our lives. Parents these days seem to be more aware and interested in the holistic world of therapeutic art vs. traditional psychotherapy/talk therapy for their kids, however many also prefer my art services in conjunction supplementally to their outside therapy services. Either way, art is therapy and is so important for a child’s mental health and well-being.
Q: How have you responded?
A: I am a strong advocate for art being implemented in a child’s daily life whether it’s for therapeutic reasons, curriculum, enrichment, as a tool for education/expression, or just for fun.
DIANA SHABTAI “MISSDEE, PSY.D., ATR-BC IS A BOARD CERTIFIED ART THERAPIST WHO OBTAINED A MASTERS DEGREE IN CLINICAL ART THERAPY, MA IN MARRIAGE & FAMILY THERAPY & A DOCTORATE DEGREE IN MFT. SHE IS PASSIONATE ADVOCATE FOR BRINGING AWARENESS TO THE THERAPEUTIC BENEFITS OF ART. EXPERIENCE STUDYING, WORKING, & EDUCATING IN THE FIELD OF PSYCHOLOGY & THE THERAPEUTIC ARTS FOR NEARLY 20 YEARS, SHE IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO kiddish MAGAZINE.