Expressive Arts Therapy vs singing in the shower

When art and psychotherapy are joined, the scope and depth of each can be expanded, and when working together, they are tied to the continuities of humanity’s history of healing. â€”Shaun McNiff, The Arts and Psychotherapy

(An article with a quote, how original.)

In my previous blog I had written a brief about Expressive Arts Therapy. I plan on delving a little more into the workings and the effectiveness of this practice.

Expressive Arts helps us foster healing and resolve conflict. From journaling, (yes maintaining a diary has proven to be helpful. Wimpy Kid knew better.) dancing, drawing, improv, to poetry writing or narration, there are a lot that fall under Expressive Arts. Fundamentally, anything that one uses to express themselves with.

So what is the difference between, I don’t know, a 3rd grader’s recess time and an entire school of therapy? What makes expressive arts therapy a therapeutic practice?

I had mentioned in my previous blog that the therapy is about the process and not the end result. Coming from an over achieving family, I know how having everything you do evaluated, can hamper your world view, growth and your performance. My drawing from second grade didn’t make it up on the fridge because I didn’t colour within the lines (and we didn’t own any…. fridge magnets). So drawing, in this situation, isn’t about expressing yourself and feeling good, but it’s about making it up on the fridge or the soft board in class.

So the moment one is pushed to simply express their feelings, the act of drawing has already become their safe haven. So ‘drawing’, becomes an aid for expression. A tool to release anxiety, to make peace or resolve problems, because what is creative is therapeutic and what is therapeutic is almost always, a creative process.

In Expressive Arts Therapy, art isn’t used to diagnose and treat people. (That’s Art Therapy.) Here, art is a tool to explore your inner realms of your consciousness. The process is solely emotional and intuitive. Singing ‘Mr.Brightside’ at the top of your lungs on your way to work is therapeutic for you. It helps clear your mind or helps you cope with road rage.

That’s what Expressive Arts Therapy is about. Letting go. Expressing. Additionally we study, analyse and gain insight from your creative piece about your emotions and thoughts. This we do by looking at messages or cues that will be portrayed by clients in their creative pieces, subconsciously.

What may just save your days in quarantine- Expressive Arts Therapy

Expressive Arts Therapy makes use of the creative arts as a form of therapy. This includes the distinct disciplines of art therapy, dance/movement therapy, drama therapy, psychodrama, music therapy, sand play therapy, poetry therapy, etc.

Now what’s the difference between Expressive Arts Therapy and expressive arts? In this form of therapy the process of creating a piece of art (a painting, a dance sequence, a song, etc.) is extremely significant. More emphasis is given to the process of the creation than to the final product itself. Expressive arts would be a performance for oneself or to an audience. Like singing in the shower, dancing to Uptown Funk while making toast, posting your poems on social media, or performing a piece of slam poetry etc.

Funnily enough, both are therapeutic.

Expressive Arts Therapy is based on the assumption that one can heal through the process of creating art. This helps one tap into their imagination, emotions and thought process. This method has proven to help one deal with stress, trauma, anxiety, autism (mild or extreme) and PTSD.

So if at all you’re having a tough time coping, here’s an option that you can explore. Mind you, this is a form of therapy, which means you need to find yourself an expressive arts therapist. Of course colouring a ‘Colour me in’ book, rapping with Hamilton or dancing to ABBA by yourself can relieve you from anxiety and stress momentarily but if you want to self introspect and see solid progress, it’s always good to turn to a professional.

Hope this helped!