A parent/child session (sometimes called a dyad) is when a parent and child work together in the same art therapy session. This is a great way of working with very young children, or with families who are wishing to strengthen or repair attachment. My favorite thing about parent/child sessions is that both parent and child receive the benefits of therapy! There are lots of different reasons that a family may choose to do parent/child sessions. First, a parent may have been separated from a child and need to re-connect. This is useful for families where either the parent or child is dealing with a prolonged illness or medical condition. Or maybe a parent has been struggling with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, trauma, or other mental health concerns that has impacted their relationship with their child. Or maybe a family has experienced separation because of divorce, family breakdown, or the loss of custody of children. Parent/child sessions are also useful for when a relationship needs to be built, like when a child has been added to a family through fostering or adoption. Finally, parent/child sessions can be used for healing in a family that has experienced trauma. Examples of trauma that might affect families could be: domestic violence, crime, fire or natural disaster, acts of war or terrorism, the death or loss of a loved one, or a car accident. Working together under the supervision of the art therapist can help parents and children re-establish feelings of safety and get things feeling ‘back to normal’.
No. Really. Art therapy is great for people who are preverbal or who have limited verbal skills for other reasons (such as disability, illness, or language barriers). The sensory aspect of art making has been shown to promote the growth of new neurons, to promote the development of motor skills, and to aid in top down development in babies and young children. Engaging with the art materials reduces stress and has a regulating effect on the nervous system. It also encourages the development of problem solving skills, self-control and mastery, and can foster creativity and a zest for learning. In the context of an art therapy session conducted by an art therapist, a baby or young child can increase secure attachment after a separation or rocky start, build trust, and build and strengthen relationships with caregivers. Art therapy can support caregivers to bond with their child, reduce their own stress and anxiety, to increase their confidence, and to heal from their own historical traumas. Of course, it is important that to have age appropriate expectations and materials. A baby is not going to create a museum quality masterpiece. At this stage, the focus is on experiencing the art materials with the senses. Squishing the clay, feeling the slippery paint, smelling the dough, and inevitably tasting things as well. Good thing there are so many non-toxic, and even edible material options out there!