We Have a Creative God
When counseling teens, it can often help to approach sessions and homework assignments differently than with adults in order to keep them engaged, interested, and even willing to come back. There are benefits of offering creative outlets within the context of biblical counseling sessions.
In Biblical counseling we often bring God's attributes to bear on our counselee's struggles. Within those attributes we find that our God is a creative God.
God is most certainly an intelligent, creative artist. We are His masterpieces (Psalm 139:14). There are a variety of ways that God shows us His creative attributes. Beginning with the creation story in Genesis 1:1, we see that creativity is an integral part of the biblical narrative. Art in various forms has been used through the ages as a means of expression, to document history, to provide practical tools for daily living, and more. (Exodus 35) For many, creativity is an act of worship as God-given talents and skills are imparted by Him to bring Himself glory (Psalm 150:1-6).
God has given us many creative abilities. He has given us art, music, writing, building and more. We can utilize creative activities in Biblical Counseling, especially with young counselees who do not respond well to a conversational style of counseling.
I am not suggesting that we utilize creativity as a means of accurately interpreting a person's struggles. I am suggesting that creativity in counseling can be used as a means to open up discussion on pertinent topics as we seek to apply biblical solutions.
Creativity is a Tool in Counseling Sessions
In my counseling sessions with teen girls in particular, I have found that incorporating creativity has been beneficial.
There is nothing inherently biblical in the actual creative means you utilize in counseling, but there is still value in it. For example, the completion of a creative assignment can be satisfying to the counselee. A sense of accomplishment is affirming. Or a teen may find that they can stick with a task to completion when the have been unsuccessful at that in school before. Problem solving skills can be developed through creative activities such as learning to do an art project or writing project. Often people find that the creative process relieves stress and has certain health benefits. However, none of these benefits are enough reason to include them in biblical counseling sessions. They are simply a tool that can bring insight in to the heart of a counselee in a unique way.
Teens have felt less threatened about maintaining eye contact as they work with an art medium while we talk, whether or not that art pertains to a topic we are discussing. For young people with poor ability to concentrate on a discussion, doing something with their hands while talking can often help them to maintain that discussion.
Creative outlets lend themselves to the discussion of the many ways God has gifted us. It can also be a way to discuss how creative God is. This is a good starting point for teaching about God’s character. This is a valuable topic for all teens, especially those who have not yet understood the gospel.
The creative task can be geared towards the topic in counseling. For example, while talking about a biblical definition of “the heart”, the counselee can draw and decorate a poster of a heart with the Scripture references written on it. This is often my first creative activity in counseling girls and it is typically well received. They are instructed to display it on their wall to refer to for future homework assignments on heart-related topics. This kind of creative activity in the counseling session carries over in to the homework and engages the counselee differently than just talking. An ongoing creative project helps to motivate a young person to return to counseling and engage in the process more fully.
To provide you with more specific and practical suggestions, here are a few creative activities to use in counseling youth:
Poetry can be assigned as homework. This can be topical or freeform, and can provide you with something to springboard in to a discussion. You may find that you can discern some deeper heart issues in the poetry.
Short stories can be utilized in the same way as poetry. You can ask for a story that pertains to a certain theme, or you can allow the counselee to write what they wish and then discuss it as it applies to their current life struggles, and then look at the biblical applications.
Music is more interesting than art to some. Listening to and or composing lyrics or discussing songs and how they apply to life can be fruitful.
Craftwork such as pottery or jewelry making, or artwork such as coloring sheets, collages or diagrams that reflect a teaching can reinforce a concept better than a worksheet might.
Popular right now is what some call “Bible Art Journaling” where drawings are done right on the Scripture to reinforce content and engage with the Word in a creative way.
Art can be done digitally with a photo-editing program, adding Scripture or text to pictures that reinforce counseling topics.
Bookmarks to color can add to discussion of a Bible reading assignment.
Utilize various forms of journaling homework, and decorate the journal as you talk. Many are more likely to use it if they have made it their own. Some teens have difficulty speaking with you, but will do very well drawing or writing creatively in their journal to express their thoughts to you.
Regardless what creative activity you choose, use great tools. Gels, stickers, paint pens, glitter pens, small items to glue, these are all things that add to the enjoyment and benefit of creativity in the counseling session. Have some simple craft supplies handy to do while you talk such as stringing beads for jewelry, modeling clay, etc. The art itself is not the point, but it can remove the threat of a counseling conversation to have something tangible to work with. Equate this to any ‘doodling’ you might do while you talk on the phone or listen to a podcast.
Don’t hesitate to enjoy the creative activity along with your counselee, it creates a connection between you that can be helpful!
Join the Conversation
What other means of creativity have you utilized in counseling young people? What benefits have you discovered?
Note: a version of this post first appeared at the Biblical Counseling Coalition blog.
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