Expressive Arts Therapy

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“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” This quote by Thomas Merton illustrates how the expressive arts can act as useful tools for not only discovering more about ourselves but also the world around us. Therefore, utilizing expressive arts therapy techniques provides new pathways for processing our experiences, expressing our emotions, and healing our wounds. Regardless of the artform, the creative process itself offers a plethora of benefits for anyone willing to exhibit a sense of vulnerability, courage, and curiosity.

Expressive Arts Therapy Modalities

Expressive Arts Therapy involves a multi-modal approach consisting of visual art, writing, psychodrama, music, and movement or other somatic approaches. Each modality can be used on its own or in combination with others to enhance opportunities for personal healing, transformation, and growth. One might create a visual representation of their emotional experience, engage in a non-dominant hand dialogue with their creation, and then enact the conversation through music, spoken word, and movement. Linking together each of these approaches allows for more in-depth exploration and processing of the hidden aspects of our lives than words alone can often provide.

Expressive Arts Therapy Process

The process of Expressive Arts Therapy revolves around exploring one’s responses, reactions, and insights throughout the creative endeavor alone, with a group of peers, or under the guidance of a facilitator. The foundation of the creative process is to witness the creation of art, whether it is yours or someone else’s, with compassion and curiosity rather than judgment. When reflecting on your artwork or another’s creation, you might consider asking questions about what the content represents and why certain shapes, sounds, colors, textures, or movements were chosen.

Expressive Arts Therapy Benefits

Engaging in any creative form of expression is inherently healing, and each individual harbors an innate desire to create, regardless of age, cultural background, or other demographic group. Traditional talk therapy can often be inaccessible, especially for those who struggle to articulate emotional experiences or who don’t process or express verbally. For example, children are not always developmentally able to vocalize big feelings; however, they naturally express through play and creativity. When we only engage in talk therapy, we risk staying stuck in the cognitive brain and intellectualizing our feelings rather than truly sitting with our emotions. Expressive arts therapy connects us to our senses and strengthens the body-mind connection, which is an especially vital part of overcoming traumatic experiences. In addition, engaging with the expressive arts welcomes people of all skill levels as it focuses primarily on the act of creation itself rather than the product or outcome.

Expressive Arts Therapy enables us to tell stories, make meaning of our experiences, and navigate and heal from trauma. It can be a powerful way to support our wellbeing and even help those experiencing Alzheimer’s disease, substance use disorders, trauma, low self-esteem, stress, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

If you are interested in seeing if this therapeutic approach can support you in your healing journey, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who specializes in Expressive Arts Therapy or inquire with Embrace Therapy for additional resources.

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