School counselors play a vital role in meeting the mental and emotional wellness needs of students. It is a fact, too, that students are not very keen on attending counselors’ therapy when they need to. They are either bored, inattentive, anxious or angry. Children and teens, especially, are often deviant and do not conform to the rules set for them, and when they are advised to go to therapy to resolve some behavioral issues, it is difficult to keep them there regularly.
“Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.” That’s according to Chris Corbett, PsyD. In this regard, dedicated school counselors are inspired to look for creative and interesting techniques to better their school counseling services. This means that they need to find new approaches that they can incorporate into the conventional counseling services that they offer so that students are encouraged to have themselves evaluated for guidance and support.
Counseling Through Expressive Arts
The addition of counseling with the use of the expressive arts is a new technique but has already shown positive outcomes, according to a study done by Susan Chuang and Michael Mason. They stated that after a few weeks of joining the arts program as part of the counseling process, the kids showed an increase in self-confidence, assertiveness, and leadership and social skills. Susan Clifton, MSW, LCSW elaborates that “Art is a powerful thing; it is creative, it is calming, it is a powerful therapeutic tool. The growing movement towards holistic treatment has supported the view that expressive arts in treatment are valuable for health and wellness.”
Here are some activities that school counselors have been applying for particular purposes.
Activities for career enhancement
Kids and teens can benefit from the techniques taught in expressive arts as they begin to contemplate on what they would want to become when they grow up.
Children are encouraged to participate in games such as Charade. For this particular activity, they are going to act out different jobs and different career men and women. The competing team is going to guess which career the other team is acting out, and then they go next.
Another activity that the kids have found to be interesting and enjoyable is drawing a brochure on the kind of career that they want to pursue, and how they can influence others to go for that career. Here, the kids are taught how to give value to their career goals and also to develop their writing and drawing skills.
Activities for Personal and Social Enhancement
Traditional counseling for personal development involves having a one-on-one conversation with the child and enabling him to realize his strengths and weaknesses. Incorporating expressive arts, they have added some play therapy strategies to further develop the children’s thinking and hands-on skills as well. “Art can function as the voice, or even a third party, in the therapeutic conversation. For example, if a painting is entirely black, it could be indicative of depression, or perhaps the creator grabbed the last available bottle of paint on the shelf.” Melissa J Weaver, LMHC, ATR also adds.
The school counselors group the children consisting of 4 or 5. They are to criticize a painting, which includes how they feel when they look at the painting, and what they think does the painter want to express. They are not asked to write their answers but to discuss them among themselves. This is done so that they are able to develop their social skills through their interactions with each other.
Activities for Academic Enhancement
Individual or group counseling can greatly benefit from expressive arts programs, and the teachers and counselors can also join in to make learning easier and more manageable.
When trying to help an average or below average student, one activity is asking that particular student to cut out some images from a magazine and make a collage out of these images. Then he or she is given the time to explain what the collage is all about. There should be no judgment whatsoever on how the student performs – only an ear to listen and the compassion to help.
There are many other activities that school counselors can utilize to better help the youth in developing their strengths and overcoming their weaknesses. Many kids suffer from social anxiety and insecurity because of their family and other personal problems. This is where the school can play a major role in guiding these students, reaching out to them, and encouraging them to be the best that they can be.