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Symbolism in Art Therapy with Children and Adolescents: Personal Coat of Arms

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Throughout history, symbols have always played a pivotal role in conveying identity, values, and aspirations.The coat of arms, an emblematic design on a shield or escutcheon, has been a potent symbol throughout history, reflecting familial, regional, or individual identity. Originating in medieval Europe, the primary function of a coat of arms was to distinguish knights on the battlefield. Over time, it evolved into a sophisticated system of symbolic representation, incorporating colors, animals, and heraldic elements to convey intricate messages about lineage, achievements, and aspirations. In Art Therapy with children and adolescents, a personal Coat of Arms can be created using meaningful symbols

The Coat of Arms and Symbolism

The coat of arms is a rich tapestry of symbolism, with each element carefully chosen to convey specific meanings. Heraldic symbols often include animals representing virtues (e.g., lions for courage), colors denoting qualities (e.g., gold for generosity), and shapes symbolizing strength or protection (e.g., shields or castles). The image served not only as a military identifier but also as a visual language expressing the values and allegiances of a family or a community. As societies evolved, the coat of arms extended beyond the battlefield, finding its way onto flags, official seals, and monuments, becoming an enduring symbol of collective identity.

A Personal Coat of Arms

Designing a personal coat of arms offers a unique avenue for creative self-expression, allowing individuals to encapsulate their values, aspirations, and personal history in a visually striking manner. One might consider incorporating symbols that hold personal significance, such as animals that represent qualities one admires or elements reflecting cultural heritage. The choice of colors can evoke specific emotions or tie back to family traditions. The shield shape itself could be customized, reflecting one's own understanding of protection and strength.  The act of choosing symbols, colors, and shapes inherently invites introspection, prompting individuals to reflect on what holds personal meaning and significance to them.  By externalizing these internal aspects through art, individuals can gain a clearer understanding of their identity and communicate it to others in a symbolic language.

When contemplating the imagery for a personal coat of arms, individuals may ponder questions like: What animals or symbols resonate with my personality and values? What colors evoke the emotions I want to convey? Are there particular achievements or milestones that should be represented? Furthermore, delving into one's heritage and exploring family history might uncover emblems or motifs that can be integrated into the design. This self-exploration can bring forth a deeper understanding of oneself and serve as a visual representation of one's journey and identity.

Coat of Arts in Art Therapy

This art directive of creating a personal coat of arms can be exceptionally beneficial when working with children and adolescents. The symbolism embedded in a coat of arms allows for exploration and representation of their identity, values, and personal narratives. For children and adolescents navigating the complex process of self-discovery, this directive offers a tangible and visual representation of their evolving sense of self. Moreover, it empowers them by allowing choices in selecting symbols, colors, and shapes that resonate with their unique experiences and aspirations. The process encourages self-reflection and introspection, fostering a deeper understanding of their emotions and personal history. 

Art Therapy with Children and Adolescents

Additionally, as art therapy often involves a therapeutic alliance between the therapist and the client, the creation of a personal coat of arms can serve as a valuable tool for facilitating dialogue and connection between the therapist and the child or adolescent, fostering a supportive and trusting therapeutic relationship. 

In conclusion, the coat of arms, with its historical roots deeply embedded in medieval warfare, has evolved into a powerful symbol of identity and heritage. Through centuries, it has transitioned from a military insignia to a versatile emblem of collective and individual expression. Designing a personal coat of arms becomes an artistic journey, offering a canvas to encapsulate one's unique story, values, and aspirations. By navigating the rich symbolism of heraldry and asking reflective questions, individuals can create a meaningful and visually captivating representation of their identity that stands as a testament to their personal narrative.

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art therapy coat of arms


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