Working in a children’s mental health facility as an Art Therapist, I saw many clients diagnosed with ADHD. Their symptoms would range from distracted to disorganized, to hyper-active to inattentive; and their moods would run the gamut. Some clients would come in and create up to twenty pieces of art in each of their first few sessions, barely taking time to slow down and process what was going on. The solution to the frenzy of activity and lack of focus was to minimize distractions and decrease over-stimulation by reducing the materials provided (with more being able to be added later if necessary), as well as providing sessions with a structure.
Some people may think that this technique is counter-intuitive when dealing with ADHD, and feel that an Art Therapy session is where a child or adolescent with ADHD should have full range to explore, and let loose, creating whatever they want. In truth, there needs to be balance between the two.
In my experience, clients with ADHD did best when they were allowed to create whatever they wanted and were not directed to create something specific, but the sessions themselves were structured, with minimal distractions. This allows for the free flow thoughts and feelings, but in a safe and structured environment that helps them focus on the therapy. Having the session itself structured creates a calm environment and allows clients with ADHD to be able to focus on what they are creating.
Children and adolescents with ADHD, have busy minds, are creative, highly intelligent, but can either be easily distracted or sometimes hyper-focused. Art Therapy allows them to tap into these positive characteristics in a safe and calm environment without the distractions. When able to tap into these talents, children and adolescents with ADHD are able to time manage, learn to control their behaviours and emotions, and problem-solve. Art Therapy helps them to develop these skills and learn to apply them to other areas of their life.