Creativity in Counseling Youth

November 16, 2016

Ellen Castillo

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Ellen Castillo

We Have a Creative God

In biblical counseling we often bring God’s attributes to bear on our counselees’ struggles. For example, God is most certainly an intelligent, creative artist. By making us in his image, God has given us many creative abilities. He has given us abilities to produce paintings, sculptures, music, writings, buildings, and more. We can also utilize creativity in biblical counseling, especially with young counselees who do not respond well to a conventional style of counseling. Creativity in counseling can be used as a means to open up discussion on pertinent topics as we seek to apply biblical solutions.

Creativity is a Tool in Counseling Sessions

In my counseling sessions with teen girls in particular, I have found that incorporating creativity has been beneficial.

Completion of a creative assignment can be satisfying to the counselee. A sense of accomplishment is affirming. Problem-solving skills can be developed through creative activities such as learning to do an art project or writing project. Often people find that the creative process relieves stress and thus can have certain health benefits. However, none of these benefits are enough reason to include them in biblical counseling sessions. They are simply a tool that can bring insight in to the heart of a counselee in a unique way.

Teens might feel less threatened about maintaining eye contact as they work with an art medium while we talk, whether or not that art pertains to a topic being discussed. For young people with poor ability to concentrate on a discussion, doing something with their hands while talking can often help them to maintain that discussion.

Creative outlets lend themselves to the discussion of the many ways God has gifted us. It can also be a way to discuss how creative God is. This is a good starting point for teaching about God’s character. This is a valuable topic for all teens, especially those who have not yet understood the gospel.

The creative task can be geared towards the topic in counseling. For example, while talking about a biblical definition of “the heart,” the counselee can draw and decorate a poster of a heart with the Scripture references written on it. This is often my first creative activity in counseling girls, and it is typically well received. They are instructed to display it on their wall to refer to for future homework assignments on heart-related topics. This kind of creative activity in the counseling session carries over to the homework and engages the counselee differently than just talking. An ongoing creative project helps to motivate a young person to return to counseling and engage in the process more fully.

Practical Suggestions

To provide you with more specific and practical suggestions, here are a few creative activities to use in counseling youth:

Poetry can be assigned as homework. This can be topical or freeform and can provide you with a springboard into a discussion of the way the counseling is thinking about life. You may find that you can discern some deeper heart issues in the poetry.

Short stories can be utilized in the same way as poetry. You can ask for a story that pertains to a certain theme and then discuss it as it applies to her current life struggles, and then look at the biblical applications.

Listening to and or composing lyrics or discussing songs and how they apply to life can be fruitful.

Craftwork such as pottery or jewelry making, or artwork such as coloring sheets, collages or diagrams that reflect a teaching can reinforce a concept better than a worksheet might.

Popular right now is what some call “Bible Art Journaling” where drawings are done right on the Scripture to reinforce content and engage with the Word in a creative way.

Art can be done digitally with a photo-editing program, adding Scripture or text to pictures that reinforce counseling topics.

Bookmarks to color can add to discussion of a Bible reading assignment.

When utilizing journaling homework, the journal can be decorated as you talk. Many are more likely to use it if they have made it their own. Some teens have difficulty speaking with you, but will do very well drawing or writing creatively in their journal to express their thoughts to you.

Regardless what creative activity you choose, use great tools. Gels, stickers, paint pens, glitter pens, small items to glue are all things that add to the enjoyment and benefit of creativity in the counseling session. Have some simple craft supplies handy to work with as you talk, such as stringing beads for jewelry, modeling clay, etc. The art itself is not the point, but the threat of a counseling conversation can be reduced if there is something tangible to work with.

Don’t hesitate to enjoy the creative activity along with your counselee; it creates a connection between you two that can be helpful!

Join the Conversation

Have you used other types of creativity in counseling young people? What benefits have you discovered?