By Evi Fisher, Graduate Intern, Clinical Mental Health specializing in Expressive Arts therapy
Expressive arts therapy is a type of therapy which uses the creative process to enable healing. In mental health, it is used as a different way of exploring the problems and issues that come up in therapy. Many times, visual art is used, but expressive arts therapy encompasses the use of writing, music, drama, dance and movement throughout the therapy process.
You do not have to be an artist to utilize expressive arts therapy. In fact, the therapeutic value of expressive arts therapy is not in the finished product, but in the process of creating. The creative process, whether it be making a collage, writing a poem or using your body to dance, is at the core of expressive arts therapy. It is not unlike typical therapy; the expressive therapist uses both talk therapy and the arts to treat his/her patients.
Many times, language does not suffice in helping us get to the root of our problems. By using art and the creative process we are actually accessing a different part of our brain where our traumas are stored. When we access these parts of our brain, we are able to process past hurts, feelings, and emotions that language cannot express.
The U.S. Military has found great success using expressive arts therapy to treat PTSD. In fact, the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. is using Expressive arts therapies with combat veterans to treat symptoms of PTSD and to help them and their families readjust to civilian life. The military has found expressive therapies to be so effective that they are expanding the program to veteran’s hospitals and military bases across the nation to help treat more veterans and their families.
Expressive arts therapy is being widely used for many different populations and therapeutic purposes. It can be used for any age, for any person. It is used to treat traumas, anxiety, depression and many other mental health issues. Expressive therapists go to school to study mental health and are Master’s level clinicians.