The Struggle to Feel Real: Creation, Destruction and Identity Formation in an Adolescent Art Therapy Process

by Amy Allan

Why is it that adolescents can be so challenging for clinicians?  What is it about this age group that often makes us feel so vulnerable? How does the transitional process of adolescence affect adolescents themselves and what is it that we, as a society and individually, have to do in order to assist our more troubled adolescents in the passage from child to adult?

Research for this paper is based on a retrospective analysis of the artwork and therapeutic process of an adolescent boy whom I call "Kevin". While Kevin is by no means a "typical" adolescent boy, he is especially useful for this study because he presents a number of issues in exaggerated form. Psycho-dynamic theories of adolescent development are explored alongside cultural ideas of rites of passage and "liminality". Kevin's art therapy process has been presented as a poetic narrative which explores the creative and destructive elements of adolescent identity formation. This narrative has been written with the intention of creating a presentation that is both dynamic in performance, as well as informative in content.