Practice Management Blog

Art Therapy Activities for Teens

The therapeutic impact of engaging in artistic activities is well-documented. From reducing stress and anxiety to enhancing self-esteem and self-expression, art therapy provides opportunities for reflection, growth and healing.

If you’re in need of inspiration for art therapy sessions with teens, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll provide practical insights and ideas to help you support the well-being of teen clients in your art therapy practice.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a specialized form of therapy that incorporates creative techniques and artistic expression into the therapeutic process. It provides individuals with a means to explore and communicate their thoughts, feelings and experiences through various art modalities.

Art therapy isn’t about creating masterpieces; it’s about self-discovery and personal growth.

At its core, art therapy acknowledges the inherent connection between creativity and mental well-being. Art therapy offers a nonverbal outlet for expression for teens – who may find it challenging to articulate their thoughts and emotions.

Creating art can support teens as they externalize their internal struggles, process experiences and develop coping strategies.

What Does a Professional Art Therapist Do?

With a background in both art and therapy, art therapists are highly trained clinicians who possess a unique blend of skills and knowledge to guide their clients through the creative process and help them address psychological and interpersonal challenges.

Art therapists work in various settings, including schools, community centers, hospitals, and private practices, collaborating with clients of all ages and backgrounds. When working with teens, they create a safe and supportive environment for expression through art.

Overall, the role of a professional art therapist is multifaceted. By harnessing the power of art and therapy, art therapists play a vital role in supporting the mental well-being and growth of their clients.

Art Therapy Activities for Teens

The options for teen art therapy activities abound! However, with so many possibilities, it can take time to choose the right activity for each client and setting.

Here are 7 art therapy ideas for teens:

1. Mandala Painting

Mandala painting involves creating intricate patterns using small paint dots on paper, stones or other smooth surfaces. This meditative activity encourages teens to focus on the present moment, promoting mindfulness and relaxation.

Teens can choose colors and patterns that resonate with their emotions and experiences, allowing them to express themselves creatively.

2. Drawing

Drawing is a classic art therapy activity that allows teens to communicate their thoughts and feelings through images.

Tip: Consider playing relaxing music during drawing sessions. This has the dual potential of calming clients and providing inspiration.

Whether sketching simple doodles or creating detailed illustrations, drawing provides teens with a non-verbal outlet for self-expression and exploration. Make it easier by providing a prompt or theme to inspire teens’ artwork and facilitate deeper reflection.

3. Altered Magazine Picture

In this activity, teens can enhance magazine photographs with paint, stickers and other magazine cutouts.

This activity is both therapeutic and fun, particularly for clients who may feel too much pressure in drawing or sketching activities. By altering magazine photographs, teens can express themselves with graffiti artist-like abandon.

4. Words-to-Live-By Collage

In this activity, prompt the teens to choose a phrase or set of phrases that exemplify their “words to live by.” They can then build an artistic collage around these words to depict their lives, internal worlds, and histories, using magazine cutouts, old wrapping paper, confetti, and even photographs of themselves or significant people in their lives.

To facilitate this activity and reduce the chances of alienating some participants, have a few iconic or meaningful phrases ready for the teens to sample. Avoid creating a scenario in which teens are required to come up with their own phrases.

5. Vision Board

Creating a vision board involves compiling images, words and symbols representing teens’ aspirations, goals and dreams.

Teenagers can use magazines, photographs, and other materials to construct vision boards. They envision their desired future and reflect on the steps needed to achieve their goals. This activity is designed to inspire motivation, visualization and self-reflection.

6. Color Swatches

This activity involves associating different emotions with specific colors and creating swatches or color charts to represent these feelings visually.

Tip: Allow teens to create their own associations between colors and emotions.

Teens can explore the range of emotions they experience and reflect on how each color represents a unique aspect of their inner world. This activity promotes emotional awareness and self-expression.

7. Paper Bead Jewelry

Making paper bead jewelry is a creative and tactile activity that allows teens to repurpose paper into wearable art pieces.

Teens can roll paper strips into beads, apply colors and patterns that reflect their personal style and preferences, and even write self-affirmation messages on the paper strips. This activity promotes fine motor skills and creativity while providing a tangible outcome that teens can proudly wear or share with others.

Creating jewelry can also be calming and therapeutic, offering teens a sense of accomplishment and self-expression.

Teen Art Therapy Ideas: Top Tips

Create a Safe & Non-Judgmental Environment

Establish a safe and non-judgmental space for teens to feel comfortable expressing themselves through art. Encourage an atmosphere of acceptance and openness where teens feel free to explore their thoughts and emotions without fear of criticism.

Offer Choice & Flexibility

Give teens options and flexibility in selecting art materials and activities based on their preferences and comfort levels.

Consider factors like how much verbal interaction your clients are comfortable with. Giving teens a sense of agency and control empowers them to engage more fully in the therapeutic process and enhances ownership of their artistic expressions.

Encourage Reflective Dialogue

Foster dialogue and reflection during art therapy sessions by asking open-ended questions and actively listening to teens’ responses.

Encourage teens to explore the meaning behind their artwork, discuss their thoughts and feelings, and make connections to their lived experiences. This reflective process promotes insight, self-awareness and emotional processing.

Accept Mistakes & Imperfections

Art therapy isn’t about creating perfect or flawless artwork but rather about self-expression and exploration. Explain that mistakes and imperfections are part of the creative journey, and encourage teens to embrace experimentation and learn from their artistic experiences.

Help teens develop resilience and self-compassion by reframing mistakes as opportunities for growth and discovery.

Facilitate Peer Support & Connection

Incorporate opportunities for peer support and connection within art therapy sessions, such as group activities or sharing circles. Encourage teens to engage with one another, offer feedback and share their experiences and insights.

Peer support can foster a sense of community, validation and belonging among teens, enhancing the therapeutic benefits of art therapy.


Running an art therapy practice can be immensely rewarding, but it also has administrative challenges. Power Diary streamlines your practice management, allowing you to focus more on what you do best: facilitating healing through art.

With Power Diary, you can use a range of features designed to simplify your art therapy practice. Whether it’s progress notes, treatment plans, or intake forms, everything is securely stored and accessible at your fingertips.

Plus, by adding contacts who can book appointments on behalf of teen clients, you can ensure seamless communication and coordination with parents, guardians or other caregivers.

Start your FREE TRIAL today and discover how Power Diary can transform your art therapy practice.

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