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What is Expressive Arts Therapy?

At times, verbal forms of expression are not sufficient, especially when we are dealing with deep or difficult emotional matters. We literally “don’t know what to say”, or “don’t have the words”.
When words fail us, art is at the ready.
Expressive Arts Therapy allows us to connect with deep emotional places within ourselves through painting, dancing, photography, and other art forms. As nonverbal forms of self-expression, they allow us to bypass the difficulties of putting feelings into words, creating a different route to access deeply held issues.
The Process of Creation
Expressive Art Therapy incorporates a variety of art forms to encourage self-expression and dialogue. It emphasizes the process of creation.
As you paint, write, sculpt, dance or play music, the therapist observes and encourages you to explore your creative process, behavior, emotional response, and insights through explorations and encounters with art processes. You create to spark awareness and discovery.
Children especially can benefit from using Expressive Art Therapy. Children may not have the vocabulary to describe their big or complex emotions. Or, it may be easier to draw a picture of an upsetting experience than to talk about it. Dancing or acting out feelings may also be easier than finding the words, as it engages clients in an emotional and creative space.
Once the “raw” emotions have been expressed through art, the therapist asks about their creative experience, building rapport and the opportunity to process and heal.
Examples of Expressive Art Therapy
  • For couples: reflective drawing, memory book, mirroring, gift making to facilitate understanding, communication, and making meaning of the relationship.
  • For older adults: mindfulness practice, memory books and life maps can help to review their life and make meaning of their life stories.
  • For individuals with anxiety: focusing, body map, mindfulness-based arts creation might be used to facilitate relaxation in the mind and body.
  • For individuals with eating issues: journalling, mask creation, and emotion drawing might be used to improve understanding of self.
It is not necessary to have a background in arts to benefit from expressive arts therapy, as healing comes from the creative process.
Alyse Yu Hung is a registered Expressive Arts Therapist. Contact the BFDC to make a booking with her.