How Creative Expression Can Help Your Depressed Teen

A young woman with a brain graphic behind her - left side analytic, right side creative expression - depressed teen

It’s no secret that depression is a common problem for teens. Parents are always searching for answers about how to address the problem. Although they often think of counselling or medication as a solution, creative expression is another way that teens can find help for their depression symptoms.

What is creative expression?

We use creative expression as a tool to help people cope with hard emotions and feelings, including depression. Creative expression can take many forms, such as:

  • Painting and drawing
  • Creating music
  • Sculpture
  • Photography and videography
  • Creative writing
  • Dance and movement

One great thing about using creative expression is that the tools are already available for teens to use. If you have a pencil and paper, you can draw a picture. Just about every teen has a mobile phone with a camera for taking photos and recording videos. Indeed, there are any number of apps available to download that allow for creative expression. 

How can art help overcome depression?

Let’s say that your teen is struggling with depression. You (or their counsellor) asks them to either free-draw or even draw about a topic, such as sadness. Once the picture is complete, the teen explains their work. It can be the starting point of a dialogue about what they are struggling with. It also creates a record that your teen and the counsellor can refer to later. Imagine what it can be like for a teen to look back after a year of work to see how they were in the past, and where they are now!

But can art replace therapy?

The use of creative expression is just one tool available to counsellors and therapists to help your teen. Remember, not everyone will directly benefit from “talk therapy.” Why? Because for many people it is very difficult to express in words what they are feeling and experiencing. They may not even realise themselves where their depression originates. It could be from:

  • A past trauma that has yet to be resolved.
  • Feeling isolated and alone from others.
  • Not being understood.
  • Experiencing negative reinforcement from their peers, adults, and even their parents.

It takes time to get to the underlying causes of depression. That’s why art can be so helpful to understand what is happening.

Using art beyond therapy

Artists are always tapping into their past life experiences as inspiration for their art. Whether it is the pop singer who creates a song about a breakup or the painter who struggles with their own inner demons, emotions and art have always been connected. Your teen can use art as a creative outlet for their feelings as well. Instead of letting depression overwhelm them, it can be the muse for artistic expression. This means that they won’t have to turn to more drastic measures to cope with those feelings. Rather, they can use creative expression to better cope with those emotions.

Something to be proud of

Teens who are depressed often struggle with self-worth. It can be hard for them to believe that they are capable human beings. Art can change that thinking pattern into a new narrative. When we step back after creating something, we can see, feel, and even hear our finished product. We can say, “I made that.” That experience translates into feeling more powerful and capable. It is also a source of pride knowing that others appreciate our work and recognise our achievement. Imagine how powerful that is for a teen struggling with depression! 

Teens with depression may find that participating in the expressive arts is a useful way to not only express what they are feeling but also to cope with their emotions too. In turn, being creative can lead to increased self-esteem, pride, and ultimately feeling appreciated and understood by others.

Getting further help

If you would like to speak in confidence with someone about your teen’s depression or would like some support yourself, who not get in touch? You can call us on 0151 329 3637 or email You can also complete our online referral form, and we will get back to you.



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