People often ask me about expressive arts therapy… what it is, why I am so dedicated to its use , and how I use it in session as an approach to change, growth, and healing. Have you wondered about the Expressive approach yourself?

What is an Expressive Arts approach to counseling?

Since the beginning of time, humans have used the arts for healing. Ancient healers used an integrated approach that involved combining many forms of the expressive arts, such as drumming, art making, and movement into their preventative and reparative forms of treatment. Expressive arts techniques are now a popular form of mental health and wellness counseling in schools, hospitals, treatment facilities, and community centers around the world. Expressive arts add a unique dimension to professional helping work not found in strictly verbal forms of therapy. While all forms of therapy encourage self-exploration, the expressive arts also emphasize self-expression, active participation, imagination, and mind-body connection.

My personal integrated approach combines play therapy, sand tray therapy, the visual arts, clay therapy, and movement therapy such as yoga. I believe a counselor should be an expert on what’s the same in all forms of creative art therapies: the human imagination. I also believe a counselor’s toolbox should contain a variety of approaches because every person’s life challenge is unique. As Maslow is quoted as saying, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.” My experience with an integrated approach has blessed me with a deep understanding of how various modalities can be applied in response to a wide range of mental health and wellness challenges.

Why use an Expressive approach?

The expressive arts approach has been shown to be especially effective with certain types of people, with certain populations, and for certain types of mental health and wellness challenges. People who have different expressive style strengths, such as visual and tactile for instance, need the arts in order to express their thoughts and feelings effectively and authentically. So do children who have limited language (their primary language is play), older adults who have limited speech because of a stroke or dementia, or trauma and loss survivors who may be unable to put ideas into speech. Using the expressive arts in counseling may actually speed up the process of counseling because it allows people of all ages to experience themselves differently!

What does an Expressive session look like?

In general, an expressive arts counseling session may open with a discussion of the person’s or family’s goals, concerns, or current problems. Individuals might be encouraged to use an expressive form of communication, rather than simply talking, to explore these issues. For example, I may ask a client to draw or sculpt an image of an idea, enact a situation, arrange a set of figures in a sand tray, write a short story or poem, play with toys or props, or use a musical instrument to express a feeling. I may use an exercise such as a scribble, stretches, simple yoga poses, or a song to help a client relax, introduce a new wellness concept, or to have someone share their mood or concern More than one approach may be used within a single session and I usually reflect with clients verbally in order to help clients make sense of their experience. In essence, as I work with my clients, self-expression is used as a container for feelings and perceptions that often deepen into greater self-understanding or may even be transformed into emotional reparation, resolution of conflicts, and a greater sense of wellbeing.

How do I get started?

Call, text, or email me so we can get together to discuss YOUR Expressive Approach. We will work together to craft an individualized plan utilizing the techniques that resonate with you in order to meet your mental health and wellness needs! Looking forward!