Triadic Art Therapy

Foster Children

  • Children who have been separated from their birth family experience a great deal of stress; this makes it vital to place them with another family who will accept them as their own.
  • Foster children often experience significant placement disruption, which can contribute to emotional-behavior problems (Smith, Stormshak, Chamberlain, & Bridges Whaley, 2001).
  • Constantly, having to adapt to new caregivers can contribute to attachment difficulties.
  • Approaches must consider children’s rights and family preservation, and foster families must be seen as part of a professional team.
  • Children in foster care frequently have experienced poverty and violence.  They often struggle with a history of neglect and mistreatment by their caregivers, grief for lost relatives and close friends, disorientation from the loss of their homes, multiple foster care placement transitions, and interaction with numerous systems of care (Lawrence, Carlson, & Egeland, 2006).
  • Foster children need to adjust to a new environment, which can sometimes involve fitting into a new culture.
  • These negative, inescapable experiences can impact the children’s neurobiology, with one consequencebeing long-lasting developmental impairment (Gomez, 2013).

REFERENCES Lawrence, C. R., Carlson, E. A., & Egeland, B. (2006). The impact of foster care on         development.Development and Psychopathology, 18, 57–76. Smith, D. K., Stormshak, E., Chamberlain, P. & Bridges-Whaley, R. (2001). Placement    disruption in treatment foster care. Journal of emotional and behavioral disorders, 9(3), pp. 200–205. Gomez, A. M. (2013). EMDR Therapy and adjunct approaches with children: Complex trauma, attachment, and dissociation. New York, NY: Springer Publishing company.


Triadic Art Therapy with Indigenous Foster Children and Foster Parents

The treatment involves child and caregiver in joint art-making sessions with a focus on cultural connectedness.

  • Involves child and caregiver in joint art-making sessions with an art therapist who is attending to their cultural connectedness as a third element in their relationship.
  • Centers on the “relational values” of Indigenous culture.
  • Aims to strengthen the relationship between foster parents and foster children through culturally appropriate art therapy.
  • Integrates people from their community in the healing process, such as elders.
  • Is based on vast research about dyadic art therapy, attachment theory and its Indigenous parallel, which is connectedness in the broadest sense of the word, as it encompasses attachment to the community and the natural environment (Carriere & Richardson, 2009).
  • The art therapist leads the session with both the foster children and their foster parents.
  • The therapist assists the children in reducing trauma symptoms and supports them in their grieving process (Sun-Reid, 2012) while modeling the same for foster parents to be able to access.
  • The artworks that are created in art therapy are tangible and therefore may be an important means of communication between the child and caregiver (Proulx, 2003).
  • Triadic art therapy can help the foster parent understand the foster child’s behaviour.
  • The therapist supports and assists foster children in understanding the intentions of their foster parents.
  • Triadic art therapy leads foster children to build their communication skills, learn to express their needs to their foster parents, and help construct their capacity for self-autonomy.
  • Triadic art therapy aims to strengthen the triad’s connection, and the child’s creativity can be a tool to help them through difficulties (Shore, 2014).


Carriere, J., & Richardson, C. (2009). From longing to belonging: Attachment theory, connectedness, and Indigenous children in Canada. In S. McKay, D. Fuchs, & I. Brown,(Eds.), Passion for action in child and family services: Voices from the prairies (pp. 49–67). Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Center.

Proulx, L. (2003). Strengthening emotional ties through parent-child dyad art therapy. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd.

Sun-Reid, H. (2012). Arthur’s journey: A case study of integrated therapy process.Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP).

Shore, A. (2014). Art Therapy, attachment, and the divided brain. Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 31(2), pp. 91–94, doi: 10.1080/07421656.2014.903827