Art Therapy Helps Identify Cause of Teenage Angst


Chicago School student Alyssa Christensen is witnessing the power of art and play therapy firsthand as she works to break down barriers and help build trust with families in crisis at Turning Point Counseling. With TCSPP studies specializing in marital and family therapy, Alyssa is now applying that training at her practicum site to help middle school and high school adolescents overcome emotional and behavioral problems.

Many of the students she’s working with at Turning Point are from low-income families and have witnessed violence or neglect at home. “I found that using art and play therapy allows the students to build trust with me and I am able to address their needs,” she says, explaining how this cognitive behavioral therapy approach can correct students’ maladaptive behaviors.

One of her recent success stories involved a 12-year-old student who was suffering from depression. A loner at school with weight issues, the boy would break down crying during each therapy session. However, when Alyssa asked him to draw a favorite family memory, the boy opened up and she soon discovered why he was experiencing severe mood swings. “Having him express his emotions creatively, I was able to identify that his depression stemmed from abandonment issues,” says Alyssa. “His father left him at a young age.”

Through weekly sessions Alyssa was able to help the student reconnect with his father, change the way he expressed his emotions, and develop healthy habits.  By the end of their time together, the boy had made friends at school and was able to clearly describe his emotions – both his highs and lows. “It was amazing to see his progress and transformation.”

Alyssa plans to continue to work with children and families with small children. “I grew up in a great, supportive family environment and I want to give that to others.” She will continue her training and enroll in the TCSPP Marital and Family Therapy doctoral program this fall.

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