Here is September’s installment of “Ask Shelby” from Chester County’s own Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Shelby Riley.
I have an eight year old daughter who is extremely shy. Every day we have to push her to get on the school bus, at school she struggles to make friends, and we’re seeing more and more anxiety about little, simple things. I saw your practice offers an expressive art therapy group for kids her age. Would this be a good option for our daughter?
Thanks, Concerned Mom
Dear Concerned Mom,
It sounds like this is a hard time for both you and your daughter. Shyness is different than anxiety, but they can be related, and often, shy kids have a harder time verbalizing their thoughts and feelings and find less comfort “talking” through their problems. Many children, shy or not, don’t verbalize their thoughts and feelings well, and we find play therapy and expressive art therapy can be a wonderful natural “language” for kids to explore their issues and express themselves more effectively. I would highly recommend you try the expressive art group for your daughter. I am going to turn this over to Hope Nichols, LMFT, our expressive arts group leader, to tell you more about it. She writes:
“Here is how expressive art therapy works: In the presence of a therapist and the group, the act of ‘doing’ rather than ‘talking’ can allow for a comfortable passage towards finding solutions and healing from difficult past experiences. Expressive arts, symbols, images and music provide the metaphorical equivalent of feelings and offer children the opportunity for safe expression of difficult feelings and experiences. The expressive art therapies will introduce your child to another means of accessing her unexpressed voice and help her identify strengths and solutions for healthier coping with her anxiety and social issues.
In our group the children’s art work is not analyzed by the therapist. The therapist will ask your child to interpret her own art and before long, she will become the capable narrator of her own self-expression. Expressive art allows children the opportunity to grow and develop self-awareness through self-expression.
Group itself is social by nature, and very often children graduate from our groups feeling more socially aware, skilled and confident and they often tell us that they have made special friends in group. Group therapy is a safe place to process feelings, make connections, and increase self-confidence. I think your daughter would benefit from group, and I’m happy to talk with you more and answer any specific questions you might have.”
Please feel free to contact Hope directly (Hope@shelbyrileymft.com) about any of the groups she runs. We offer groups for children, teens, and adults. You can find out more about the groups we offer on our website.
We work with many kids like your daughter, and we often see them quickly learn how to manage their anxiety, move through feelings of fear and shyness, and build healthy friendships. I’m sure your daughter will be able to do the same. I’m glad you reached out,
Shelby Riley, LMFT is the owner of Shelby Riley, LMFT and Associates, LLC. She is currently the Past President of the Pennsylvania Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (PAMFT). Remember to check out Shelby’s website www.shelbyrileymft.com for useful information about therapy for individuals, couples, and families.