It's All in a Story: The Function of Storytelling in Child Art Therapy

by Allyson Fisher

This research study explores the function of fantasy and storytelling with children in art therapy. The primary focus was the therapeutic value of narrative in childhood and the role it plays within the context of art therapy. Theoretical perspectives include the role of the unconscious and fantasy, child development, and the psychotherapeutic interventions of play and art therapy. The study utilizes a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to present a retrospective analysis of three clients, who attended a children’s art therapy group co-facilitated by the researcher. The research design followed Kidd and Kidd’s Experiential Method whereby the children’s narratives throughout their art therapy process were documented, themes and repetitions were uncovered and analyzed, and an overall reflection of how the thematic content holds meaning for each child was presented. The study concludes that story has multiple functions and that allowing children to delve into their stories of their art, they are able to give representation of their therapeutic process, their development, and the processing of their inner worlds. Therapeutic value of story is also in what can be learned through listening to the story and how exploring the story through dialogue can enhance psychological growth. Through the benefit of story, children have the opportunity not only to externalize and communicate emotional difficulties in a safe and developmentally appropriate way, but they can also transform these narratives inside the story and within the therapeutic relationship through the active building of developmental skills, self-mastery, problem-solving skills, emotional understanding, and sense of self.