One of the many disorders that Art therapy can help is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), and in some cases, are overly active,” (CDC). For most children, they do not simply grow out of ADHD. ADHD can cause children to have a hard time pay attention, be easily distracted, forgetful, unable to stay seated, be fidgety, act or speak without thinking or interrupt others. Because of the symptoms, it is generally “associated with low self-esteem as a result of consistent academic failures and impaired familial and peer relationships.
According to Dere-Meyer, “Richters claim ADHD to be one of the most treatable childhood mental disorders. Psychopharmacological, psychotherapeutic, and combined interventions are common treatment methods of ADHD. However, pharmacological treatment, specifically stimulant medication, is considered to be the most popular among parents due to the cost efficiency, in addition to the pressure for them to quickly reduce symptoms.”
With research it is shown that although there is “ambivalence among caretakers towards the use of stimulant medication in the treatment of ADHD. Although stimulant treatment is the most widely used intervention, parents reportedly prefer psychotherapeutic treatments because of the possible side effects of stimulant medication, worry of over- prescribing of medication, and the need to address behavioral issues rather than solely decrease symptoms,” (Dere-Meyer, 33). But these stimulant medications have short-term effects and not permanently improve social or emotional issues. Even with that in mind, it is popular and commonly used, as well as less expensive than behavioral therapy.
But this is where Art Therapy can come into play as an alternative route for those non-permanent stimulant medications and the pricey behavioral therapy sessions. “Art therapy can be implemented as a conjunctive treatment with medication, as it can address and improve socio-emotional issues related to ADHD. The creation of art provides a visual, permanent record of an individual’s emotional and behavioral experience,” (Dere-Meyer, 33).
During a case study, found over a three-year period, art therapy guided children towards increased communication and expression and helped to decrease the severity and frequency of negative communication and defiant behaviors in children. Rosal compared the applications of cognitive- behavioral art therapy and art as therapy with a control group over the course of 10 weeks. The outcome of the study revealed that both cognitive behavioral art therapy and art as therapy had positive effects on behavior of children suffering from ADHD and other behavior disorders and led to increased perception of control, (Dere-Meyer, 33)
The minimal, yet valuable, art therapy research on ADHD and psychotropic medication suggests that standardized art therapy tools could be used to support ADHD treatment and research. The use of art making in assessment seems to be particularly useful for children who might struggle with verbal assessments. With this information alone, why not give Art therapy a chance to show what it can really do?