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Art and young people: 'How come I feel empty inside?'

Sometimes the behaviour of young people seems perplexing; manifesting itself with shouting at one extreme to 'silent withdrawal' at the other. It's no wonder then, that even when they have had a 'good' day young people can still feel 'empty inside'. This sense of emptiness doesn't seem to make any sense. Emotions feel both tightly controlled or out of control at the same time.

Art in therapy can provide a way of tapping into the creativity of young people and offers a form of communication which is non-threatening. In art, the young person has control. Using art can show the young person that the therapist is interested in their worldview and their place within it - whatever imagery is chosen to express their emotions. When the therapist makes a non-judgemental assessment, there is a good chance of developing a relationship based on trust.

It has been said that young people would rather feel physical pain and put themselves at risk than face the internal pain of depression; yet when we consider the young person's cycle of development depression can herald a move towards independence and a securer identity.

If a young person's depression is rooted in their family environment or the external world of peers and society, they often seem to get better when their anxieties are expressed through art. Young people who are distressed tend to be disinterested in seeking help from adults. Art is non-threatening. It can offer a support system to young people experiencing abuse,depression, low self-esteem, social or academic failure. Art is a great way to express ourselves when words just don't come. It can help us feel different - and more real. It can help us remember how we were before we became emotionally stuck. The images we create change as we do. And can help us make a good day feel okay.

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Walsall, Staffordshire, WS6

Written by Lyn Reed

Walsall, Staffordshire, WS6

I am a qualified and experienced counsellor/psychotherapist offering a professional and confidential service to those who want to improve their emotional well-being. My empathetic and supportive approach can help us make sense of your world. By doing so, the future can be approached with renewed confidence, self-belief and inner strength.

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