Children's Self-Esteem: The Benefits of Art Therapy in Elementary Schools

by Irene Crick

A review of available literature has uncovered few direct correlations between art therapy and increased self-esteem in children. Self-esteem is a popular concept in North American culture, and there is an abundance of information claiming to enable teachers, parents, and counselors to raise children's self-esteem. This paper demonstrates that two children who came to the attention of special education teachers with a variety of diagnoses and/or issues exhibited a significant rise in self-esteem indicators after a minimum of twenty sessions of art therapy. The treatment and its results will be explored using amplified case studies. Both children attended public schools in British Columbia, Canada, and were between the ages of nine and eleven during therapy.

The subject of this study is of particular interest to me because I have worked with children who have special needs as a support person in the public school system for over fifteen years. In this capacity, I have often used structured self-esteem programs. I hope that this paper will be helpful to art therapists, educators and mental health professionals who wish to improve the self-esteem of children. Specifically, the intension of this work is:

  1. To improve and speed the delivery of a useful service to children who are struggling to overcome issues that impede their academic, social, and emotional progress.
  2. To help art therapists connect with existing programs for improving self-esteem in the public school system, and to make their work relevant i this environment.
  3. To demonstrate how art therapy addresses certain issues and thus improves self-esteem.