The adolescent must cope with the loss of childhood, emerging from a world rich with fantasy into one which includes some stark realities. The adolescent also copes with the stress of higher expectations placed upon him or her both by the self and by others. Teens are responsible for meeting more of their own basic needs than before, perhaps being expected to earn a wage while maintaining academic performance and extra-curricular activities. Adolescence brings cognitive developments such as the ability to understand the concepts of irony, justice and ambivalence. They are expected to make more complicated decisions which begin to impact their future as adults – decisions like where or whether they will attend college and what they will choose as a career.
The developmental task of adolescence is identity formation, the exploration and declaration of individuality. Throughout this long process, teenagers create and play new roles almost daily. Part of the task is breaking away from the family of origin and forging new relationships with a circle of peers. Separation from parents makes the process of social bonding feel all the more urgent and potentially harrowing for the self-conscious teen. Today’s teens are growing up digital, and raking in the tricks and treats of the cyberworld they’re building. Cyberbullying is a reality their parents did not have to manage, and has real consequences for adolescents.
Creative arts therapy can help adolescent clients when other modes of support fail to reach them. While adolescents sometimes offer resistance to traditional mental health treatment, tools from the creative arts can circumvent that resistance so that clients can meet their targeted goals through a medium they already enjoy: creativity. Participation in creative arts therapy can assist in identity development and build a sense of confidence in a world where all we want to do is fit in. Teenagers already use art, music, dance and drama to express themselves and connect to one another. Creative arts therapy capitalizes on this strength. Through engagement in creation, clients are able to express those emotions which they cannot always put into words while simultaneously becoming aware of new strengths and abilities they have to cope with the world around them.
ITA currently provides individual and group creative arts therapy at a therapeutic day school for adolescents with emotional and behavioral disorders and self-contained special education classrooms. In the past, ITA therapists have provided services at alternative high schools. Adolescents are seen individually onsite and also participate in socialization groups.