The Effects of art Therapy on Students With Emotional/Behavioral Disorders

Amy V. Krueger, Augsburg College


The process of creating art is considered to be a therapeutic method for students with emotional behavioral disorders (E/BD) to non-verbally express their thoughts and feelings. It has also been used by therapists and at times collaboratively with special education teachers to assess thoughts, feelings and also state of mind. Research suggests that art assessment offers an uncensored view of a child's thoughts and feelings and is a nonverbal method of assessment for children who are still developing language skills or who are unwilling to verbalize their feelings or emotions (White, Wallace, Huff-man, 2004). Art psychotherapy with students with E/BD is very complex. Therapists need to be flexible enough to perform a variety of roles, that of the therapist and teacher. They also need to be willing to deal with a complex set of problems, ranging from extreme aggression to extreme anxiety. Art thcrapists can offer something traditional talk therapists and other kinds of specialists cannot; the opportunity to experience the kind of functioning that is possible only in the process of making art and offer the ability to gain the insights that may be obtained through this kind of experience and in no other way (Osbome, 2003). This qualitative research study attempts to investigate the experiences and gain insight into the art therapy experience from the perspectives of students who are diagnosed with E/BD. This research also proposes to investigate the effectiveness of using art therapy as a method to assess and evaluate a student's emotional status frorn their teachers and therapists perspectives and make recommendations to the field based on the findings of this study.