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Local Providers Encourage Art Therapy For Youth

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Deborah Bunkley of The Potomac Art Therapy Association works with children on National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day.
Deborah Bunkley of The Potomac Art Therapy Association works with children on National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day.

By Rebecca Sheir

A new study suggests children with behavioral or emotional problems, who receive age-appropriate mental-health services, are more likely to complete high school and live independently.

Some local care providers say art therapy can be a key component of those services.

Deborah Bunkley is President of The Potomac Art Therapy Association. At an event celebrating Mental Health Month, she's working with a group of school children.

"What we've asked them to do is with the crayons," says Bunkley. "Just draw how they're feeling today."

Dr. Gary Blau is a clinical psychologist with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA. SAMHSA's new study indicates a drop in behavioral and emotional problems in a third of children who receive mental-health services, such as art therapy.

"The idea of talking to a very young child, they may be better able to express themselves through a different kind of an art medium," says Blau.

Deborah Bunkley says art also can bridge communication gaps in families.

"Whether parents just can no longer talk to their children, the children don't know how to voice, ya know, what they need to voice, the art gives them both a verbal and visual tool to kind of start that conversation," she says.

Which in turn, she says, can start a more successful and productive life as children develop and grow.


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