Art Therapy at Julie Billiart Schools

Through the creative process and self expression, art therapy is used at Julie Billiart Schools to help children with social and academic learning challenges manage their feelings, reduce stress, communicate emotions, and build self-esteem.

What is Art Therapy?

Generally speaking, art therapy is an expressive therapeutic technique that uses the creative process to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being of both adults and children.  Many of our students, especially those on the autism spectrum, have intense sensory needs. Making art encourages them to touch, see, smell, hear, and sometimes even taste, new and unexplored textures, fragrances, sounds, and flavors. In a similar way, students with ADD/ADHD, show increased ability to stay on task when engaged in the creative process during art therapy sessions. Furthermore, art therapy encourages students to interact with peers, practice turn taking, and develop other social skills in a safe and familiar environment.

Art Therapy is Not the Same as Art Class

Unlike “art class”, art therapy is conducted within the context of a therapeutic relationship intended to help students express themselves creatively while also promoting mental, social and emotional growth. Art therapy aims to build life skills, address deficits, reduce unwanted behaviors, and most importantly, encourage healthy self-expression.

Art therapists use a variety of approaches to enhance a students’ ability to communicate, creatively share emotions and record experiences, perceptions, and feelings through the use of a wide range of mediums.

Art Therapy provides a vehicle for expression by using therapeutic techniques to help children appropriately focus, contain, modulate, and channel emotions while building a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Art Therapy Services at Julie Billiart Schools

Most times art therapy is not available in private, public or other special needs schools. However, at Julie Billiart Schools all students participate at least weekly, and sometimes more often, in some sort of creative activity whether it’s art therapy, art class or weekly art club meetings.

Art therapy can take place in a group setting or individually, depending on the child’s needs. Sessions are conducted in a variety of environments including designated art spaces, the classroom, and even outdoors. Like all the onsite therapies at Julie Billiart Schools, there is no additional charge to families for the sessions and they are scheduled according to the student’s needs and progress.

Using a variety of creative tools and visual art mediums including painting, drawing, and ceramics, students are encouraged to think differently, explore new concepts and push their sensory boundaries in healthy ways.

“Encouraging our students to try something new is often my biggest goal,” said Diane Hughes, Julie Billiart Schools Art Therapist. “Often times children are limited by what they THINK they can and cannot do. By introducing new materials or processes to the students, they are challenged to increase their creative spirits and self-esteem by opening themselves to new experiences.” 

Teaching Collaboration Through Art


For several years, the middle school students at our Lyndhurst campus partner with a class of similarly aged students in Japan to explore each other’s cultural similarities and differences. Sponsored by the International Intercultural Mural Exchange (IIME) program, this project connects Japanese students via technology with partner schools in other parts of the world. While exploring each other’s cultural, the two schools work together to choose a global theme and then collaboratively create a mural that illustrates their perception of the theme. Our students have the opportunity to build relationships with students in a different part of the world and learn about a new culture as they develop their critical thinking, problems solving and decision making skills.


After 6 to 7 months of collaborating through letters, emails and the internet, the project culminates with the creation of a 6’ x 12’ painted canvas mural. This work of art is then sent back across the ocean and is displayed as an International Project for Peace.

Services Extended to Parents

The power of art therapy is not just reserved for our students. Julie Billiart Schools offers parents the benefits of art therapy every Tuesday morning at their Lyndhurst campus. Supportive in nature, the sessions provide an opportunity for informal conversation and networking among parents and adult family members. While making art is generally central to each session, “Sometimes no art is involved, “ said one participating parent. “It simply gives me the chance to talk to and learn from other parents that can relate to the joys and pains that I’m experiencing with my child.”

See First-Hand

The experts at Julie Billiart Schools provide a whole-child approach to education and tailor their teaching methods to meet the learning styles of each student. Art therapy is just one of the ways we promote the social, emotional and academic growth of our students.

Discover first-hand, our small class sizes and flexible learning environments  – register for an Interested Parent Open House or contact us with any questions you have!

View text-based website