Expressive Arts Therapy

Expressive Arts Therapy

All problem solving is essentially creativity. When I was a behavioral therapist, I was continually challenged to solve the problems of toilet training, introducing letters and animals, giving sounds and words to wants and needs, developing social awareness…life’s lists are endless. I began to find that creativity in the midst of these challenges was my greatest ally. I saw miracles worked through the repetition and consistency of behavioral methods and practices. But I did not always feel that the relation- ship between the child’s experience and learning were in dialogue with one another. I needed different access points, so the child could engage with his or her community and environment in a more cohesive and integrated way.

These new access points came through the Expressive Arts.

What we learn from experiencing is often easier to absorb and recall. An expressive arts therapist engages an individual’s three levels of experience—physical, mental and emotional—to notice the disconnect and continuity in their experience.

Playful, experiential exploration is key to human health and learning and at the heart of expressive arts. Connecting with ourselves and others and solving problems in nonverbal, imaginative, and embodied ways produces different results and is an alter- native experience from typical verbal and mental routes of com- municating and being.

The expressive arts shift from one art medium to another, so that interplay between them gives participants tools to access and express what is happening physically, emotionally and mentally. Each art medium is its own unique language. We grapple with different emotions, sensations, and images when singing a sweet, soulful song than we do when dancing rhythmically and energetically. So, no matter the individual’s abilities, there is a creative tool to use. For the individual who has an experience, but no words to name it, the expressive arts offer the voice of drawing or dance.

The expressive arts build bridges between imagination and reality. Let’s help our children build those bridges.

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