When Emily was struggling most, she took out her pain on the people around her. She threatened violence first to her schoolmates, later to her principal, and finally to herself. What she didn’t tell people was that after her father lost his job, he became abusive, and she was the outlet for his frustration and anger.
It wasn’t until Emily was expelled and placed in an alternative school that a therapist handed her Chill & Spill, our book for teenagers in crisis. Through the creative expression exercises in the book, Emily was able to connect her drawing to the emotions she was feeling, allowing her to articulate her pain. Looking back, Emily says, “I was angry at people every day. And so I started doing bad things.”
Through the power of creative expression, Emily gained the self-awareness to identify her triggers and change her behavior. Not only did she return to her traditional school, she also helped her father identify his triggers and realize how much suffering he was causing. Long after she finished using the book in a therapeutic setting, Emily looked at and wrote in Chill & Spill every day. “It was my best friend,” she said.
At Art with Heart, we believe that all kids can turn pain into possibility. Since 2002, we have created healing, therapeutic books that bring together the best in therapy with the best in illustration to help children in difficult circumstances. Our five books for children and teens blend cognitive behavioral, narrative, and art therapy with social emotional learning skills. By making beautiful, evidence-based workbooks, we help kids like Emily begin to understand pain that they don’t have words for.
Over the past twenty years, we’ve been honored to help 140,000 children and teens facing hardship from divorce to long-distance moves, from illness to abuse to the grief of losing a sibling or parent. All of our books use the power of creative expression to allow kids to recognize their emotions and gain coping skills that will help them today and throughout their lives.
Our first book, Oodles of Doodles, was created to help hospitalized children. Magnificent Marvelous Me! helps elementary-aged kids build self-esteem through social emotional learning, while Draw It Out is tailored to children of the same age group who are grieving. Ink About It is for teens and tweens in transition, and Chill & Spill is for teens in crisis.
If you’re interested in learning more about Art with Heart or finding out about our companion guides for adults, local trainings, or if you just want to say hello, we’d love to hear from you! You can find us at artwithheart.org, or on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Erica Sklar is the communications specialist at Art with Heart, a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting the emotional well-being of children facing the pain of trauma and loss through creative expression. Erica is their resident blogger, interviewer, and social media manager.