The windows let sunlight stream in, brightening the room. On each table there were pallets of paint, cotton balls, and painting utensils. Staff and visiting mission guests welcomed the students from Pacific Christian Academy (PCA) into the weekly summer Workshop Day. 16 students showed up to participate in an art therapy station led by four staff members and four team members.
Each student, along with the help of psychologists and visiting guests, made a rainbow representing our six primary emotions – joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, and love. Each emotion was assigned to one of the six colors in the rainbow. The color with the greatest thickness on the rainbow represented the emotion they felt while doing the activity. Staff wanted children to learn the six emotions and what they were, and even more than that, to identify and express them with their own voices.
Just as important as the art itself, the space where the students participate is just as key to their growth. Each workshop is decorated to be a stimulating and safe environment, as it impacts each student as deeply as the activity itself. Staff take careful measures to ensure their senses will be engaged and soothed, as art therapy is a great co-regulation technique for the children and the safe adults.
Psychologists have seen great strides taken in their students over the course of the art therapy workshop. They are connecting with their peers, staff, and visiting group members – growing socially and emotionally in a safe and controlled space. It presents an opportunity for tools and knowledge from previous workshops to be reinforced – growing their educational prowess. Students are learning that if they cannot express themselves verbally, they can say it through their art, they are growing in their self-awareness and others-awareness, reducing stress levels, and having fun.
Students show up excited to express themselves in new ways, staff show up ready to lead and help assist when regulation or guidance is needed, and all the while, students are growing in their emotional and social capacity, gaining new skills, and are realizing, one paint stroke at a time, that their voices, emotions, and feelings will always matter and be heard.