EXPRESSIVE ARTS THERAPY
The Expressive & Creative ARTS has the power to transform. It can be the catalyst for gaining deepening self-awareness to then translate into the desired changes you seek to create in your life.
As stated by the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA), expressive arts combines the visual arts, movement, drama, music, writing, and other creative processes for personal growth and transformation.
With Expressive Arts Therapy, a basic tenant is that each human is unique and creativity is a natural state, a human quality one is born with. In this type of work, the product of creation as an aesthetic form & product is not the primary focus but rather the process and meaning assigned to what is created. No art experience is necessary to engage in this modality of therapy.
As is cited in an article called, The ART of Healing; Creative Therapy Aids Recovery by Marlaina Donato in the publication Natural Awakenings, “Creativity from a clinical perspective allows for new emotional vantage points, distance from situations and viewing experiences through a different lens. Bringing in creativity offers a wider palette of tools or access points and gives us another way to understand ourselves.”
In this modality of therapy, there is a non-verbal component or an alternative form of communication, accessing a different part of the brain, to express feelings and thoughts that one may not have access to through talk therapy alone. In this way, it can be a powerful aid to the therapeutic process of healing. It can help with symptom relief and affective-behavioral changes. One may find images or symbols that express one’s inner world that are not fully captured in words alone.
There is research on the neurochemical brain benefits of creating art. In a study at Drexel University published in The Arts in Psychotherapy, it showed neurological effects of drawing, coloring, and simple doodling resulted in a dopamine response in the brain which is responsible for decreasing symptoms of anxiety and increasing feelings of joy.
As a therapist trained in expressive arts therapy, I use art to support and guide you to fulfill your personal goals. Expressive arts therapy combines traditional psychotherapeutic practices with an understanding of the creative process. This modality of therapy has been found to be effective in the treatment of a myriad of clinical issues such as anxiety, depression, life transitions, trauma/PTSD, and addiction & recovery treatment.
The language of my HeART has always been creativity and the arts. My grandmother wrote a note about each of her 7 grandchildren when we were 5 years of age. Mine read like this: ‘Little miss petite who loves collecting things in nature and making things. She loves glue and papers and creating things with her hands’.
Creating symbols and images about what is going on in one’s inner world can help to externalize what needs to be expressed for healing. “Art can be said to be – and can be used as – the externalized map of our interior self" by Peter Landon.
How does Expressive Arts Therapy work?
There is usually a two-step process involved in expressive arts therapy. The first is the creation of art, based on an invitation in the session related to what is being addressed in the therapy. This may be very simple like a scribble drawing using oil pastels or more involved like a collage. The second involves reflecting on what is created (the product) and then one’s process involved in making the art. Underlying messages communicated through one’s art may be explored. Color, images, symbols, and form are languages that speak from the unconscious and have particular meaning for each person.
As written by Natalie Rogers, “we express inner feelings by creating outer forms”. I am trained in Person-Centered Expressive Arts Therapy which is more concerned with one’s own meaning and process rather than on using art for diagnostic or interpretative purposes. The art pieces may become a visual record of one’s journey and progress in the therapeutic work together.
Some examples of art therapy directives include the following:
Grief/Loss: Create a “Collage Pot” – Select images from magazines which convey aspects related to a specific loss
Family of Origin: Use different shapes and colors with construction paper to designate the relationships between family members
Anxiety or Depression: Take color pastels and draw how you experience anxiety or depression in your body
Addiction/The Recovery Bridge: Complete a bridge depicting where you have been, where you are now, and where you want to be in relation to your recovery
Life Review: Past, Present, & Future collage; “What was the issue like for you in the past and now in the present?” “If you could make some changes what would that look like in the future?”
Inner vs. Outer Persona: Create a mask that reflects feelings or a persona that is portrayed to the outside world and on the inside of the mask, feelings, and experiences that are more internal or private (this can also be done with a box – the inner and outer self)
Journal therapy prompt - Inventory: do an assessment of life balance in the major areas of living
Journal therapy prompt - Unsent letter: write a letter to express one’s thoughts & feelings to a person that will not be sent
Journal therapy prompt - Goodbye letter to one’s addiction: write a letter giving thanks to how the addiction helped one survive but also saying goodbye to the addiction as this help is no longer needed
The art directive emerges from the issues being addressed in the therapy sessions and often are very specific to the individual.
Expressive Art Therapy Resources
To obtain further information about expressive arts therapy, check out some of the following resource links and books:
The Art Therapy Sourcebook by Cathy Malchiodi, MA, ATR,
The Creative Connection: Expressive arts as healing by Natalie Rogers
Art Heals: How creativity cures the soul by Shaun McNiff
Journal to the Self: Twenty-two Paths to personal growth by Kathleen Adams
The Artist’s Way: A spiritual path to higher creativity by Julia Cameron
Life, Paint, and Passion: Reclaiming the magic of spontaneous expression by Michele Cassou & Stewart Cubley
www.ieata.org - International Expressive Arts Therapy Association
www.arttherapy.org - American Art Therapy Association
www.soulcollage.com - SoulCollage®
www.michelecassou.com – Michele Cassou’s Intuitive or Process Painting
www.processarts.com - Stewart Cubley’s Process Painting Experience
www.creativejuicesarts.com - Chris Zydel’s Wild Heart Painting (Intuitive Painting)
www.expressiveartworkshops.com - Expressive Arts Workshops with Shelley Klammer
www.creative12steps.blogspot.com - Creative Guide through the 12 Steps
Art Journaling & Mixed Media Art
The Art Journal Workshop by Traci Bunkers
Art Journals & Creative Healing: Restoring the spirit through self-expression by Sharon Soneff
Creative Awakenings: Envisioning the life of your dreams through art by Sheri Gaynor
Cultivating Your Creative Life by Alena Hennessy
Taking Flight: Inspiration and techniques to give your creative spirit wings by Kelly Rae Roberts
Art Journaling magazine by Somerset Studios
www.artjournalist.com - Art Journaling
Take a step of courage and invest in You TODAY. Call me at 925.222.1568 for an initial 20 - minute free consult to determine if it is the ‘right fit’ to work together in healing and living transformed, one day at a time.