What Is Expressive Arts Therapy?

The expressive arts include multiple modalities including creative writing, dance, drama, movement, music and visual images (ie. drawing, painting). These are used as a form of therapy with the emphasis being on the process of creation instead of the final product.

These modalities help to facilitate individual growth and can contribute to a decrease in anxiety, improvement of self-awareness and regulation of behaviours.

Why Use Expressive Arts?

When traumatizing events have been experienced, it can be difficult to verbalize what has happened. Yet, there is a need to articulate the unspeakable. The expressive arts provide a way to access this nonverbal memory and externalize it.  They bring the memories forward into working memory where memory processing can be used to change the relationship with the memory. They can also give the memory a visual identity and provide a sense of control over these terrifying memories by containing them within an object, image or story.

As Steele & Malchiodi teach "trauma is essentially the inability to transform sensory memories of distressing events into explicit (cognitive) memory, where these memories could be reframed and managed and where what is happening now (no danger or threat) is distinguised from what happened then (traumatic event)". Trauma Informed Practicies - Steele and Malchiodi, 2012, p. 152.

What if I Am Not Artistic?

The expressive arts are not about artistic talent, simply put they offer a means of self-expression asides from verbal communication. Through the art, a story can be told, feelings can be expressed and released, resources can be discovered and new perspectives often emerge. This can be especially beneficial when working with children who may not know how to put their experience into words. It provides them with a creative outlet that engages their imagination, utilizes their senses and in which they can express their personality.