Expressive Art Therapies

Topics: Psychotherapy, Psychiatry, Expressive therapy Pages: 15 (5470 words) Published: November 20, 2014
This is a chapter excerpt from Guilford Publications.
Expressive Therapies, edited by Cathy A. Malchiodi
Copyright © 2005

and Practice

Expressive Therapies
History, Theory, and Practice

In his seminal work The Arts and Psychotherapy, McNiff (1981)

observes that expressive therapies are those that introduce action to psychotherapy and that “action within therapy and life is rarely limited to a specific mode of expression” (p. viii). While talk is still the traditional method of exchange in therapy and counseling, practitioners of expressive therapies know that people also have different expressive styles— one individual may be more visual, another more tactile, and so forth. When therapists are able to include these various expressive capacities in their work with clients, they can more fully enhance each person’s abilities to communicate effectively and authentically. This chapter introduces readers to the history and philosophy of expressive therapies and their applications in treatment. While there are approximately 30,000 individuals throughout the United States formally trained at the graduate level in one or more of the expressive therapies, these modalities have also been embraced by practitioners in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, social work, counseling, and medicine over the last decade. Activities such as drawing, drumming, creative movement, and play permit individuals of all ages to express their thoughts and feelings in a manner that is different than strictly verbal means and have unique properties as interventions. Indeed, with the advent of brief 1



forms of treatment, many therapists find that the expressive therapies help individuals to quickly communicate relevant issues in ways that talk therapy cannot do. For this reason and others, psychologists, counselors, and other health care professionals are turning to expressive modalities in their work with individuals of all ages.

The expressive therapies are defined in this text as the use of art, music, dance/movement, drama, poetry/creative writing, play, and sandtray within the context of psychotherapy, counseling, rehabilitation, or health care. Several of the expressive therapies are also considered “creative arts therapies”—specifically, art, music, dance/movement, drama, and poetry/creative writing according to the National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations (2004a; hereafter abbreviated as NCCATA). Additionally, expressive therapies are sometimes referred to as “integrative approaches” when purposively used in combination in treatment.

While expressive therapies can be considered a unique domain of psychotherapy and counseling, within this domain exists a set of individual approaches, defined as follows: • Art therapy uses art media, images, and the creative process, and respects patient/client responses to the created products as reflections of development, abilities, personality, interests, concerns, and conflicts. It is a therapeutic means of reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering selfawareness, developing social skills, managing behavior, solving problems, reducing anxiety, aiding reality orientation, and increasing selfesteem (American Art Therapy Association, 2004). • Music therapy uses music to effect positive changes in the psychological, physical, cognitive, or social functioning of individuals with health or educational problems (American Music Therapy Association, 2004).

• Drama therapy is the systematic and intentional use of drama/ theatre processes, products, and associations to achieve the therapeutic goals of symptom relief, emotional and physical integration, and personal growth. It is an active approach that helps the client tell his or her story to solve a problem, achieve a catharsis, extend the depth and breadth of inner experience, understand the meaning of...

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