Using the Artist Within to Moderate ADHD Symptoms

What Is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is the use of artistic methods to treat psychological issues and enhance mental health. The technique is based on the idea that creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being. Art therapy was first used formally by psychologists in the 1940s and was based on their observations that many clients dealing with issues expressed their emotions through drawings and other types of artwork.

Individuals with ADHD often have intense emotions, poor social skills, and low self-esteem. art therapy gives them a useful, nonverbal approach to face these challenges. It allows them to more easily communicate their personal experiences and studies have shown that creativity helps people to discover their self-identity.

How Does Art Therapy Help with ADHD Symptoms

Art therapy enables an individual with ADHD to explore personal problems through physical activity and sensory integration. Different parts of the brain are engaged during the creative process. Making art requires motor skills analytic and sequential operations, logic, and abstraction. Working through the sequence of steps needed to complete an art task also requires attention skills and working memory.

Creating art can generate a relaxation response and improve mood. Why? Creative activity increases brain levels of the nuerotransmitter serotonin. When this is missing, it can result in extreme sadness. Art therapy can not only help the brain produce more serotonin, but also reduce stress hormones such as cortisol.

It provides benefits for both adults and children with ADHD. And it can be used in conjunction with other ADHD treatment options.

The Different Types of Art Therapy

The creation or appreciation of art is used to help people explore emotions, develop self-awareness, cope with stress, boost self-esteem, and work on social skills. Three are a number of techniques that may be used in art therapy including:

  • Collage
  • Coloring
  • Doodling and scribbling
  • Drawing
  • Finger painting
  • Painting
  • Working with clay
  • Sculpting
  • Photography


Art therapy may not be for everyone. Many individuals who believe they are not creative or artistic might be resistant or skeptical about the process, even though artistic talent is not required to benefit from the process.

Art therapy is not like art class. The focus is not on creating a product that is a creative representation of the outer world. It is more about the process of creating an expression of what is going on inside.



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