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Building resiliency in at-risk youth using art therapy

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Vise, Cheryl
Dec 2012
at-risk youth; Visual Arts; resiliency; art therapy
Surviving adolescence can be one of the most difficult stages of life most people go through. The adolescent years mark the final turning point before becoming an adult and as exciting as that may sound to many prepubescent and adolescent teens, the developmental stages they go through come with a wide range of confusing emotions, rapid body changes, and a consistent flow of hormones. Not only do their bodies change, but their minds are continually developing at a fast pace, as well. Going through these many changes can be overwhelming by themselves, but when a teen is exposed to a variety of negative environmental factors, life can become much more of a struggle. Several extrinsic and intrinsic factors can influence an adolescent and can determine whether or not he or she will ultimately be successful, especially in school. (Eriksson, Cater, Andershed, and Andershed, 2011). The students that are faced with those struggles tend to be labeled as ?at-risk.? Overcoming these struggles and achieving goals is very possible, but this belief must be instilled in those students. Resilience is a learned trait and only grows with the encouragement and support of others. Understanding adolescent youth at-risk, including the cognitive development they undergo, along with how to promote resilience, is key to helping them succeed not only in school, but in life, as well. Art therapy is an effective tool that can be used to achieve resilience and success, process feelings, and understand, cope and overcome barriers that students at-risk face.
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