The psychotherapy I will be covering is Expressive Art therapy. This is a form of therapy that uses the creative arts. Unlike art expression, the creation process of the art is emphasized not the final result. This method is used to help people cope with all types of emotional problems, including depression. (Grumman & Krucik, 2013) Expressive Art therapy is unique because it’s not strictly a verbal therapy, it also uses self-expression, active participation, imagination, and mind-body connections. (Malchiodi, 2005)
All therapies encourage individuals to engage in self-expression, but Expressive Art therapy not only uses that, but it also uses self-exploration. By using self-exploration clients who are having trouble accessing their feelings with words, are able to access them through the arts. It’s defined by psychology as an ‘action therapy’ because it includes action-oriented methods. By using action, for example dancing, writing, and painting, clients are able to explore issues and communicate their thoughts and feelings. Malchiodi, 2005)
This form of psychotherapy helps people who don’t know how to use ‘feeling’ words. It’s founded on the belief that all people have the capacity to express themselves creativity, promoting self-awareness, emotional wellbeing, healing, and empowerment. (Grumman & Krucik, 2013) Expressive Art therapy began in the 1940’s when psychologist began to express interest in the drawings of their patients with mental illnesses. This form of therapy has been used for many years since, it has become formally recognized and is frequently practiced.
Expressive Art therapy has provided meaningful therapeutic experiences for all people of all ages. Being an ‘active therapy’ there is no right or wrong way to create something, this encourages the person seeking therapy to be free with self-expression. This form of art therapy is not necessarily used for diagnosis it’s mainly used to help people in gaining a better understanding of their personal issues, eventually reaching a desired outcome. Although, art therapy is not used for diagnosis, when interpreted by a therapist it can be used to asses an individuals need or progress. University of New Hampshire, n. d. )
Art therapy does not require artistic ability or previous experience. Through the use of art people can communicate their negative memories, stress, anger, anxiety, and countless other personal experiences. It has also been proven that the use of arts can help in emotional conflicts, improving social skills, handling behaviors, and increasing self-esteem. This free expression gives people pride in their own work by eliminating judgement. (University of New Hampshire, n. d. )
Expressive Art therapy is used to treat many different disorders. From anxiety, low self-esteem, conflict resolution, bereavement, to alcohol and drug addiction, different forms of active therapy when administered by a professional can be extremely helpful. Some subtypes include; Dance/Movement Therapy, Poetry Therapy, Drama Therapy, Art Therapy, Music Therapy, and a combination of many called Integrated Arts Approach or Intermodal Therapy. (Malchiodi, 2005) Dance therapy is used to help people in expressing themselves through movement.
This versatile form of therapy is founded on the idea that motion and emotion are interconnected. It also helps people achieve emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration. Dance therapy is beneficial for persons physical and mental health, it can be used for stress reduction, disease prevention, and mood management. Dance therapists help people in therapy assisting them with improving their body image and self-esteem. (GoodTherapy. org, 2015) By improving their self-esteem, people are more likely to become more active in their community. Thus making them feel more fulfilled.
When feeling more fulfilled people may try more forms of Expressive Art therapy, something similar is poetry therapy. Poetry therapy involves the use of poems, narratives, and other spoken or written media to help people verbalize and work through difficult emotions. Therapists sometimes use existing pieces of literature as part of treatment to encourage those seeking therapy to produce their own literary works. This writing helps people express deep-seated emotions. (GoodTherapy. org, 2015) By expressing deep-seated emotions more people are able to work through trauma and experience real healing.
If literature is not successful for the person to reach those emotions a good next step for them is Drama therapy, the process of acting stressful situations out. Drama therapy is a treatment approach to help people by using role-playing, improve techniques, and puppetry. By employing these techniques it helps people express their emotions, achieve catharsis, and develop new and better coping skills. Through preforming and storytelling therapy seekers are invited to practice and rehearse desired behaviors. Rehearsing things like being in a relationship and making small talk can help anxiety, post-traumatic stress, grief and much more. Grumman & Krucik, 2013) By acting out the stressful situations, with the help of their therapist, people are able to desensitize themselves and move past traumas they may have.
Although this works well for adults, an even more hands on form of therapy may be needed when it comes to children. Art therapy is the current go-to when it comes to children’s psychotherapy. Drawing and painting images that correspond with the child’s thoughts and emotions. Art therapy, like all Expressive Art therapies, focuses more on the process of making the art, not the final result.
Focusing on the process not only helps the child but also it provides a ‘safe zone’ where they feel open and that they can be honest with their therapist. This form of creative therapy continues to be a mainstay in hospitals. (GoodTherapy. org, 2015) Art therapy can also be successful for adults. Another subsection of Expressive Art therapy is Music therapy. Music therapy is a form of Expressive Art therapy that uses music and the creative processes around music to promote healing and positive emotions. This therapy uses singing and the playing of musical instruments to help people reduce stress and increase self-esteem.
Similarly to Poetry therapy, therapists also use pre-existing works to bring forth healing for the person. (Grumman & Krucik, 2013) The final subtype of Expressive Art therapy is integrated arts approach therapy (also known as Intermodal or Multimodal). This form of therapy takes two or more expressive art therapies to create awareness, encourage emotional growth, and enhance relationships with others. Intermodal therapy distinguishes itself from its closely related disciplines of art therapy, Dance/Movement Therapy, Poetry Therapy, Drama Therapy, Art Therapy, and Music Therapy, by being grounded in the connection of the arts.
It is based on a variety of orientations, including arts as therapy, art psychotherapy, and the use of arts for traditional healing. (Malchiodi, 2005) Finally, while research on the efficiency of expressive therapies is increasing dramatically, there is still much to be learned about how they work and how they should be applied in work with children and adults. Music therapy is one of the most widely researched subtype of expressive art therapy, largely because physiological and behavioral reactions to music and music therapy interventions can be calculated. Malchiodi, 2005)
Within the field of art therapy, art-based assessments have been more extensively studied and efficiency studies in the areas of trauma and emotional disorders are receiving more attention. While there have been some studies in the expressive therapies, most of the literature discusses clinical observations, case examples, and applications. (University of New Hampshire, n. d. ) As with any form of therapy, it is important to listen to and respect what the client is communicating and then create a therapy plan that is best suited to the individual’s needs and objectives.