We draw upon a number of creative approaches so clients can explore issues and emotions in alternative ways. Depending on the facility, clients may use art therapy to create projects like guide boxes, stress balls or collages. Some treatment facilitites incorporate music therapy approaches or have clients make a genogram of their family. These creative approaches encourage clients to express themselves in a different way than they would in talk therapy and open them to new insights through the creative process.
Creative therapies are a beneficial complement to traditional, evidence-based therapies for clients struggling with addiction and mental disorders. Art therapy, for example, has been utilized clinically for more than a century; however, the separate field of expressive therapy emerged in the 1970s.
Typically, expressive therapy involves the act of creation (e.g., painting, music, poetry, journaling or dance). The three-way relationship between creation, the therapist and client fosters a rich, dynamic environment. This is conducive to breaking down barriers and enabling the client to communicate in different ways than talk therapy. The end product is not as important as the process, therefore artistic abilities aren’t required.
How Expressive Therapy Helps
Expressive therapy can play an integral role in recovery. It helps clients make important breakthroughs, build trusting relationships with therapists and other clients, and boosts self-confidence. Utilizing the creative right side of the brain enables clients to transform abstract feelings like fears, internal struggles and emotions into something more concrete that can be explored in therapy sessions. It is especially helpful for clients with internal conflicts who find it difficult to articulate their feelings in words.
Benefits of Expressive Therapy
Expressive therapy opens creative avenues of communication that can lead to greater meaning and clarity and enhance healing. Benefits include:
- Enhanced self-esteem
- Strengthened sense of self
- Enriched insight into life experiences
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved self-expression
- Enhanced coping skills
- Greater empathy
- Improved concentration, focus and attention