Expressive Therapy

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Expressive therapy is a unique form of treatment that attempts to facilitate and hasten the process of healing by using the medium of imagination. It defines a definitive relationship between creative expressions and self-exploration. Through the use of a particular creative form, expressive therapy tries to re-establish links between the inner and outer self of the individual.

Contents

Why should I be aware of this?

Expressive therapy is used in areas where there are medical illnesses and behavioural problems. Hence, the scope of the therapy is enormous. It can be successfully used with children as well as adults since creative forms can be suited for every age agroup and for every kind of behavioural problem.

The therapist is, therefore, a very crucial functionary in the entire therapeutic process because he alone has the skill and familiarity with the use of various expressions of art, their meaning and their link to life themes and life issues. The therapist is himself intensely aware of the power of creative expression in developing self-actualisation.

Expressive therapy is, therefore, a very powerful therapy that integrates the mind body and soul in an attempt to heal the individual. It is unique also because it powers creativity by engaging in a creative act and opens the reservoirs of the self. This happens in a safe, nurturing environment.

All about expressive therapy

In expressive therapy the therapist epitomises empathy, sympathy and openness about individual differences and helps the individual be in touch with his feelings and be comfortable with his self. Newer insights are given by the therapist, who aids individuals in gaining a fresh outlook about his realities and the changes that he would like to adopt in order to be a wholesome entity.

Mostly complementary in nature

With an ultimate goal of reunifying the self with the inner-most layers of the consciousness, expressive therapy is mostly complementary in nature. It attempts to provide opportunities for catharsis of underlying conflicts, helps in understanding behavioural patterns that are exhibited, facilitates in the individual an understanding of the spiritual leanings within him, especially what his true or real self is, as opposed to that which he exhibits. All this is the basic process followed with an eye on the goal; the goal being that of promoting the well-being of the individual in every sense of the term.

Rely on various art forms

Expressive therapies, in their attempt to heal the individual, rely on various art forms. Creative forms such as dance, drama, fine arts, poetry, music and others are generally used. Hence, this form of therapy is also called creative therapy. What is most important in the therapeutic process is the channelling of the individual's creative reserves to delve into his inner state of consciousness and venting his emotions. Here the aesthetic outcome is not so important.

The therapy encourages an individual to tune into his spiritual side so as to understand the internal or core aspects of his being. This understanding is the platform upon which the person is aided in synchronising his inner realities with those on the outer.

Disparity between inner and outer selves

Often, a disparity between the inner and outer selves comes in way of an all-round growth of the individual; a growth that is in accordance with the real, authentic entity that the person really is.

Through the use of various art forms, the individual gets a legitimate and accepted space to express himself. He is allowed to draw from his personal experiences to express aspects about himself. He is also encouraged to use his imagination because it is premised that imagination does not exist in a vacuum; it draws very heavily on past and present experiences and personality makeup.

The symbols or expressions that come out during the creative process are analysed and the therapist facilitates in the process of helping the individual understand his core self; thereby becoming an entity that is not only a complete whole, but also consistent with all aspects within and outside of him.

Various Forms of Expressive Therapies

Expressive Arts Therapy Training Programme.jpg Source: Expressive Arts Therapy Training Programme, Sky Mountain Institute, http://www.skymountain.org/exparts.htm

The visuals above show the various creative forms that are used by expressive therapists. The decision to use one over the other form is usually a decision that is jointly taken by the individual and the therapist. The over-riding aspect is the individual's interest in a particular form of treatment. Also, the comfort level of the individual with an art form is a deciding factor because it ultimately involves unlocking deep-seated conflicts within the person, using his imagination, bringing out into the open aspects of his self and life that may not be very easy to handle.

Expressive Therapies types

  • Art therapy: The therapist uses the medium of fine arts to help the individual. Painting, sketching, sculpturing, making masks, etc., are used. The therapist analyses the symbols and expressions that come out during these sessions to help the person.
  • Music therapy: The person is encouraged to listen, understand, interpret and react to music as part of the therapeutic process.
  • Drama therapy: Here the tools of theatre or drama as an art form are used to unlock emotions and conflicts; the reactions and expressions are studied to increase the person's contact with his authentic self. The transformation that takes place when a person enters an imaginary realm is keenly studied; character playing of the innocent and free self is done, as also playing out of archetypes, dreams and conflicts. The process helps to loosen the person, make him more spontaneous and set him free. Psychodrama is used here for the defined purpose.
  • Play therapy: Toys are used in this therapeutic process and the therapist observes the interactions of the individual with the given playthings. Another useful tool used in this case is the sand tray. The individual is encouraged to create things on the sand tray and the outcome gives a definite insight about inner conflicts, which are then addressed.
  • Writing therapy: This is by far one of the most used forms of healing. The individual is asked to indulge his senses, logic and imagination, and write about his feelings either in prose form or as poetry on the premise that these relieve numbness towards life and bring out sensitivity towards issues. These writings become the basis for further investigation and formulation of a plan that can help the individual hasten the entire process of resolving his conflicts and emerging as an entity who is at peace with his inner and outer realities.

What can I do?

Expressive threrapists are usually known by the creative discipline they adopt in the course of treatment. So a therapist using music as a way of unlocking inner reservoirs of emotions, imagination etc., will be known as a music therapist.

One who is using poetry as a preffered method will be called a writing therapist. However, there are some therapists who do not align themselves to such straightlaced categorisation. Instead, they consider themselves as intermodal and attempt to use expressions in general to help the individual. Such therapists alter their methods and also creative expressions based on the patients' needs and ability to fruitfully use them. Hence, if a person is not comfortable in the medium of poetry, the therapist refrains from using it.

90 degrees

Whichever method of expression a therapist uses, the underlying belief is that through the use of imagination, unlocking emotions, prying out deep-seated conflicts, helping connect with spiritual experiences and tapping the hidden ideal self, it is possible for an individual to heal. The emhasis is on insight, the manner and matter of expression, and also the amalgamation of the mind, body and spirit during the process.

See Also

References and Useful Links

  • http://www.skymountain.org
  • http://www.en.wikipedia.org
  • http://www.emotionaltransformation.com
  • http://www.unichicagokidshospital.org
  • http://www.dialogical.net
  • http://www.en.wikipedia.org
  • http://www.itp.edu