Art Therapy for Overcoming Emotional Trauma in Girls & Young Women

Art therapy is a uniquely effective approach to helping adolescentgirls and young women overcome emotional trauma and other forms of psychological stress. 

When incorporated as part of an overall residential treatment or milieu therapy program, this therapeutic modality can produce significantly improved outcomes, particularly as compared to traditional talk therapy approaches.

To understand the efficacy of using art as an alternative form of psychotherapy for troubled teens – particularly for girls – it is necessary to outline the challenges that young women experience with more traditional therapeutic modalities. 

What Is Art Therapy?

In the simplest terms, art therapy uses fine art techniques and media to achieve the desired psychotherapeutic outcomes. 

This modality has been in use since the 1700s. It became recognized in the U.S. after World War II, when a tuberculosis patient from the U.K. derived therapeutic benefit from practicing his art during a difficult period of recovery. 

Scientific research has demonstrated the efficacy of this modality for conditions ranging from headaches and PTSD to more practical applications such as teaching social skills to children with autism spectrum disorder. In fact, a review of the literature from 1999 to 2007 established a body of quantifiable data supporting the benefits of art therapy for a variety of conditions, symptoms and age groups. 

Why Art Therapy Is Effective for Adolescent Girls & Young Women

Beginning as early as childhood, women experience profound emotional negativity related to feelings of self-worth and body image. The stress of trauma or dysfunction in the home life, particularly when combined with a lack of effective adult mentorship and behavior modeling, can result in many familiar emotional problems and behavioral manifestations. These include eating disorders, substance abuse, addiction, anxiety, depression and dysfunctional or abusive relationships. 

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Therapeutic modalities utilizing the arts are helpful for overcoming resistance in girls, allowing them to communicate in a non-traditional but highly effective way. 

As an alternative mode of expression, this approach provides a variety of benefits that young women may not experience in a traditional talk therapy setting. Adolescents and teenagers are often distrustful of adults and this is especially true for young women who have experienced trauma. They may be afraid that the therapist will not believe them, take them seriously or truly understand their challenges.

When given the opportunity to express their feelings in a different way, young women find the ability to symbolically communicate difficult thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Some of the most successful applications of art-related healing for adolescent and teenage girls involves eating disorders, sexual trauma and abuse. For many women and girls, these issues may be too painful to discuss or too deeply suppressed to respond to traditional therapy.

Finding Art Therapy Treatment for Adolescent & Teenage Girls

Despite being demonstrated as a highly effective treatment modality in the research, parents and caregivers may struggle to find art therapy programs in their community – particularly programs tailored to the needs of young, female trauma victims.

Combining this modality with other types of treatment, such as group, individual and family therapies, young women may successfully overcome trauma and the potentially debilitating psychological manifestations it brings. 

Look for treatment providers who offer programs geared toward the specific challenges faced by your adolescent or teen. Programs that model problem-solving techniques and teach social skills development strategies will help set troubled young women on a path to a happy future and independent living.  Review the provider’s client testimonials to verify that they incorporate art therapy into a more comprehensive therapeutic program, ideally combined with an emphasis on academics, recreation and experiential modalities as well as evidence-based psychotherapy.Click here to read Eva Carlston Academy reviews.

With the right guidance and a commitment to success, art therapy can help adolescent girls and young women overcome trauma and other mental health challenges. 


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