Art Therapy for Adults and Children

Growing up, many of us remember coloring with crayons, playing with Play-Doh, or building with brightly colored blocks. We crafted worlds, constructed make-believe scenarios and proudly displayed our creations on fridges, walls, and in frames.

Today, while some of us continue to create art, many of us do not. Life just seems to get in the way. And while art and creating may not be a staple in our lives, what if we told you it could be a catalyst to healing and growing? What if art could again give you that rush of joy? That ability to let go, to embrace emotions, raise self-awareness and cope with what life throws at you? What if we told you that a healing power lies in art therapy?

What is Art Therapy?

Don’t worry, art therapy isn’t just coloring in coloring books (although we enjoy coloring too!)

Art therapy is the use of artistic, creative methods to enrich the lives of individuals, families and communities and treat psychological distress and improve mental health. Art therapy is conducted by a Master’s level art therapist, whose goal is to help individuals and groups gain a deeper understanding of difficult situations and our behaviors and reactions surrounding these situations.

At Affinity, our art therapists will help guide you, either through creating your own art or viewing others’ art.

Through techniques like drawing, painting, collage, and sculpting, you will be encouraged to reflect on what you create, how it was made, and the meaning behind it.

Together you will search for common themes that may be influencing your thoughts and actions. Through exploration like this, an art therapist can help you to better understand your emotions and provide tools to help you cope with future stress.

Will Art Therapy Work for Me or My Child?

Art therapy has been proven to be beneficial for all ages and for a wide array of mental health concerns. Used as an alternative therapy or in conjunction with other psychotherapies, art therapy can be used to help treat such issues as:

  • Stress/Anxiety
  • Behavioral Problems
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
  • Depression
  • Aging
  • PTSD
  • Relationship Issues
  • Eating Disorders
  • Chronic Pain

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and if you have any questions about art therapy and what it may help treat, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Art therapy has helped everyone from war veterans to children with special needs get a better grasp of the world around them. Art therapy has been shown to help reduce pain and stress in cancer patientsreduce anxiety in children, and depression and PTSD in those who have suffered great traumas.

The benefits of expressive arts therapy seem to be boundless.

At its core, art therapy is about making meaning through making art.

Here at Affinity, we take pride in finding out how art therapy can help even more people thrive!

Art Therapy for Children

Expressive arts therapy for children may look like play, but it’s actually a highly beneficial therapy approach. Children do not have the refined verbal skills that adults do. Through art-making, children are actually able to communicate more and better than they can communicate with words alone. Art therapy is especially beneficial for children who may be non-verbal or sensory-based, or who may have suffered from trauma. An art therapist will encourage children to visually express and record their experiences, emotions, and perceptions.

Common art therapy activities for children include:

  • Collage making
  • Tactile activities
  • Fort building
  • Drawing

Art Therapy for Adults

Art therapy for adults, may not look too different from art therapy for children, but is just as beneficial. The goal is to “delve deep,” focusing inward and expressing yourself with creative materials. Art therapy for adults  involves a lot of talk therapy, or psychotherapy, as well. However, unlike expressing yourself with only words, the physical form of art therapy also allows you to “do something” in the moment with your thoughts and feelings – rip them up, turn them over, bury them, or change the image to what you want to have happen.  An art therapist will help you reflect on your art, ask questions, learn about yourself, and develop strategies to work through similar issues that may arise in the future.

Common art therapy activities for adults include:

  • Self-portraits
  • Creative journaling
  • Mandalas
  • Word collages

Do I Have to Be Good at Art for Art Therapy?

Not at all! Remember, art therapy is designed to help you explore your feelings, perceptions and reactions to the world around you, not your artistic techniques. When creating art, our art therapists want you to create art that is an expression of you and your feelings, not necessarily an expression of the outside world. Art therapy is for you and you alone. No artistic flare needed.

Art therapy is about the process, not the final product.

How Do I Get Started With Art Therapy?

We can’t wait to help you in your journey towards empowerment and change. You are more than welcome to read more about our art therapist here and get to know the rest of the team here. To schedule an art therapy session, you can either schedule online or contact us by clicking here. We’ll walk you through the next steps from there.

You’ve made the first step towards healing. We can’t wait to meet you!

Parenting Differences and Conflicts

Viewpoints about the right way to parent our children often have so much baggage that, if the baggage was physical, we’d need a truck to haul it around.

Your views about the right way to parent are influenced by the way you were raised, because you’re often trying to either replicate or run away from what was normal in your own childhood. That’s why raising children can bring up strong emotions and desires you forgot long ago.

It can feel personally threatening to have your parenting methods challenged.

When you are parenting with a partner or a co-parent, your strong feelings and preferences are multiplied by the number of people inhabiting a parent role in your child’s life. Those feelings can interfere with your ability to work together. You may find it difficult to understand why your partner feels the way they do, or why what makes sense to your co-parent makes zero sense to you. Not to mention that it’s sometimes hard for you to fully comprehend why you have the feelings, reactions, and values you have in your own parenting!

Shouldn’t you be able to parent the way you think is best?

Of course! However, (and you knew this was coming) you are not your child’s only parent. All parents in a kids’ life have the right to raise that child. That means it’s important to work through parenting differences and find some common ground. If you aren’t able to resolve or reconcile these differences, it can create relationship conflicts between parents and in the parent-child dynamic that ultimately can harm your child. As an involved and caring parent, that is obviously the very last thing you want.

Are there ways to resolve parenting difference, avoid parenting conflicts, and work harmoniously for the benefit of our child?

Yes, there are, and you won’t have to compromise your deeply held values to achieve that goal. As a parent, you want what is best for your child. Your desire to parent your child in your own way is because you believe your child will end up healthier and happier as a result. That’s the primary reason you feel so attached to parenting in your preferred way.

The trick is, your child’s other parent(s) feel exactly the same way!

Being able to see and understand the other’s perspective, and having your perspective understood in turn, is the key to finding workable solutions to the parenting differences in your unique family situation.

You are totally capable of raising your child well.

Developing good communication skills so that disagreements do not devolve into tension and discord is an important aspect of great parenting skills.

We know parents are doing the best they can with the information and experience they have. We also recognize that most parents don’t have the time to keep up with all the various research and parenting literature that could help them enhance their parenting skills and resolve their parenting differences. Not to mention that communication skills in adult relationships are already challenging in general!

When you work with an Affinity therapist, we become a part of your parenting team.

We can help point you to information about how certain parenting styles lead to certain outcomes. We can help you understand and practice different communication techniques that allow multiple perspectives to be heard and respected so that you can work through parenting conflicts.

We’re not saying you have to do what the research indicates is best. You are right there, in the midst of the situation, which is the best place to make the final decision. When you feel like that final decision is well-informed and respects all the voices in the room, you will feel more empowered and confident in your parenting decisions. Your relationship with your partner or co-parent will be strengthened. And, as a bonus, you will be modeling excellent conflict resolution skills for your child as well!

Unresolved parenting conflicts and tension in the home aren’t good for you or your child, especially when they’re about how you’re going to parent that child. Children need firm yet flexible boundaries so that they can experiment, push against limits, and continue to be safe and loved as they figure out their place in their family and the world.

If you’d like to get started with one of us as part of your parenting team, schedule with us or contact us today to get started.

Overwhelmed Parents

Being a parent is the most demanding and rewarding job you’ll ever do. The particular challenges of modern parenting mean that the feeling of overwhelm is the norm and not the exception.

The Added Pressures of Modern Parenting

If you are a parent, you are used to feeling overwhelmed. Most parents today no longer have the luxury of having a full-time parent devoted to caring for the home and children. Even if you have that advantage, there are more moving parts and decisions to make today than your parents had to think about.

For instance, previous generations were more ecologically innocent, so you didn’t have to think about the chemical make-up of your family’s mattresses, or whether the products you bought were packaged with recycled post-consumer waste. Social media can make you feel as if your children are competing for spots at top schools even before they are born. You are more connected via social media but more isolated by time and distance constraints. Private and charter schools can make neighborhood children and their family’s strangers to one another. In past eras, when you left work, you were off. You didn’t have to check your email or field telephone calls during the time you were with your family.

Your children also demand more. Your teenagers receive enticing brochures for summers abroad and postcards of idyllic Ivy League campuses. All your children want an endless list of games and gadgets that cost increasing amounts of money.

Have you felt guilty or inadequate for feeling overwhelmed by your parenting responsibilities?
You are as capable as parents in prior generations. In fact, in many ways, modern parents have more resources and knowledge than their parents had access to.

However, your life is more complex. You have more choices, which means you have to think more. Making decisions can be exhausting, even when you are interested in what you are doing. For your parents, a drive-through dinner was a simple question, “Is it in the budget?” For you, it is complex. Affordability may be one of the criteria you use, but you’re likely to also consider the nutrition and whether they’ve had any other fast food recently. When you add two or three extra considerations to every decision, it is overwhelming.

It’s Difficult to Admit You’re an Overwhelmed Parent

Do you sometimes wonder if you were cut out to have children? The demands of parenting make every good parent feel inadequate some of the time, but few are able to admit they’re an overwhelmed parent. You may worry about being judged by others if you acknowledge those feelings. It may feel like you don’t have the time to even think about your sense of overwhelm. You may fear getting lost in that feeling. If you’re divorced, you may be afraid of losing your children if you admit you feel like you’re drowning. When you do hint at how difficult things can be, family and friends may offer well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful advice rather than just letting you vent.

Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t make you a bad parent. Feeling overwhelmed comes from having too much to do and not enough time to do all the things, all the time, for all the people, in exactly the right way every time. Who can keep that up? No one. And yet you try, because your family means the world to you.

How Therapy Can Help You Feel Less Overwhelmed

Therapy does not magically take away your life responsibilities, unfortunately. But therapy does have a lot of other things to offer the overwhelmed parent to help them feel less frazzled and more grounded.

A wide assortment of skills, from those that enhance communication between you and your partner and you and your child, to managing your inner voice, to setting boundaries with intrusive people or obligations in your life, all can make parenting easier.

Children pick up on their parents’ stress and act it out in their behavior. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your child will feel, which then makes it easier for you to feel more relaxed. And relaxing doesn’t mean lackadaisical parenting. It means not stressing over every decision and being more intentional about your priorities.

The therapists at Affinity know how to help you create a home you want to live in with a family you enjoy. If you want more of the rewards of parenting and less of overwhelm, reach out to us today for life transitions counseling. Positive parenting approaches will make you feel like a pro.

Families Created Through Adoption

Is love enough? It takes a special type of person to bring a child into their home and offer unconditional love and support. When you chose to create your family through adoption, having an open heart that was willing to love your new child may have seemed as if it was the most important part. Perhaps love is the most important piece of the puzzle, but if you’re like most adopted families, you’ve learned that you need more than love to keep everything running smoothly.

Integrating an Adopted Child Into Your Family

Some families include both adopted and biological children. Of those families, some have existing children before they grow their family through adoption. Some families’ biological children come later. Some at the same time! Some families have only one child through adoption. Some families have multiple children through adoption, and sometimes those kids are related to one another and sometimes they’re not.

Clearly there are so many ways to create a family through adoption. Each has its own joys and challenges as you explore the best ways to integrate your adopted child into your family. Trying to balance the needs of your adopted child with your own needs, plus any existing children’s needs, is a complicated job.

Often adoptive parents do not have a ready-made community of other parents sharing in this life experience. Therefore it’s common for people to feel different and alone in this process. And it’s important to find people who “get it” who can support you through it.

Secrets and Transparency in Adoption

Deciding how much you want to know, and then how much you want to tell others, is a really stressful process. These are decisions you make many times over, for a long time. There aren’t right decisions, and every decision has its own outcomes.

Sometimes withholding information from our children is a gift we give to them. And sometimes those secrets can create different challenges. Did you hold information back from your child to protect them from unfortunate truths only to have the secrets become a trust destroying issue later on? Once untruths are in motion, you may find it difficult to maintain them and difficult to unravel them without causing someone pain.

If you valued transparency in the adoption process, maybe your child didn’t respond to that knowledge in the way you hoped they would. Perhaps they are asking a lot of unexpected and increasingly uncomfortable questions. Maybe they’re identifying heavily with what they know about a birth parent, which feels rejecting to you.

If you find yourself feeling worried and unsettled about whether to keep secrets or be transparent, you are in good company. It’s normal for parents to experience uncertainty and sometimes conflict regarding how forthcoming to be, both with their adopted child and with others in their lives.

Managing the Complicated Feelings that Accompany Adoption

Whether you’re a couple trying to reconcile differing values about how open to be with your adoptive children, a parent dealing with anxiety about your child’s search for their birth parents, an adoptive family feeling “different” from others families, or you’re an adopted child feeling guilty about wanting to meet your birth parents, there are a lot of complicated feelings involved. It probably feels like there’s a lot at stake for you.

Talking with a therapist can help you deal with the emotions and dynamics involved in your unique family make-up. In many cases, these issues can be talked through, better understood, and navigated around more gently. After putting so much effort into creating the family you want, its worth a little extra effort to work towards making it feel the way you want, too. Schedule an appointment today for individual or family sessions, depending on your specific needs.