What is expressive arts therapy?

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Expressive therapy, also known as the expressive therapies, expressive arts therapy or creative arts therapy, is the use of the creative arts as a form of therapy. Unlike traditional art expression, the process of creation is emphasized rather than the final product. Expressive therapy is predicated on the assumption that people can heal through use of imagination and the various forms of creative expression.

Expressive therapy is an umbrella term. Some common types of expressive therapy include:

  • Music therapy
  • Expressive arts therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Dance therapy, also known as dance/movement therapy
  • Drama therapy
  • Psychodrama an elaborate study of role play created and fostered by Jacob L. Moreno
  • Writing therapy, a term which may encompass journaling, poetry therapy, and bibliotherapy
  • Film/video-based therapy

All expressive therapies share the belief that through creative expression and the tapping of the imagination, a person can examine the body, feelings, emotions and his or her thought process. However, expressive arts therapy is its own therapeutic discipline, an inter-modal discipline where the therapist and client move freely between drawing, dancing, music, drama, and poetry. Although often separated by the form of creative art, some expressive therapists consider themselves intermodal, using expression in general, rather than a specific discipline to treat clients, altering their approach based on the clients’ needs, or through using multiple forms of expression with the same client to aid with deeper exploration.


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