Expressive arts therapy involves using the creative arts as a method of therapy. Expressive arts therapy is based on the premise that imagination and the creative process of expression can help heal mental, emotional, and physical issues in clients and patients alike. This type of arts therapy focuses on the process of creating art rather than the final art product created.
Image of an Art Therapy Technique Girl drawing rainbow Expressive arts therapy utilizes many varied art forms in order to help clients and patients to use the creative process to deal with emotions, mental health issues, and other concerns. Sessions of expressive arts therapy can often fluctuate seamlessly between different modes of artistic expression in one session. Regardless of which art media is used in expressive arts therapy the ultimate goal is to use the creative process in order to help patients heal their issues and improve their lives.
Many colleges and universities offer master’s degree programs in expressive arts therapy. Some schools also offer dual master’s degree programs in expressive arts therapy and mental health counseling and a number of other subjects.
There are many varied types of expressive arts therapy including dance, music, visual art, drama, psychodrama, writing therapy, horticultural therapy and many others. Dance therapy relies on the premise that dance movements are connected to emotions. Dance and movement therapy uses dance movement to express emotion to help clients deal with mental, physical, behavioral and other issues.
Arts therapy which is expressive also utilizes music therapy which is used to help patients and clients improve emotional, behavioral, social and overall health. Expressive versions of art therapy sessions that include music therapy can focus on many different musical activities. For example, some elderly patients can benefit from songwriting to improve their communication and memory skills.
Another type of art therapy which is expressive can also be in the form of drama therapy which uses techniques grounded in theater to help patients and clients work on and improve their mental, emotional and physical health. The dramatic process can be used to help expressive art therapy patients and clients work on their problem solving skills, understand the meaning of personal images, and work on a variety of other issues.
Writing therapy which can include journaling, poetry, and many other forms of writing is another type of art therapy that can be expressive. Writing therapy can help patients and clients deal with and process traumatic events or everyday issues in their lives.
Horticultural therapy is a form of expressive art therapy that focuses on gardening and cultivating plants in order to help with certain therapeutic goals.
Many colleges and universities offer master’s degree programs specializing in different facets of expressive arts therapy. Some schools also offer programs that focus on dance or drama, while other schools offer dual degrees encompassing multiple types of expressive arts therapy.
There is sometimes a bit of confusion about the difference between art therapy and expressive arts therapy. This confusion stems from the fact that they are principally the same type of field and profession. Some national and state licensing and credentials boards make a distinction between the two for certification and licensing purposes, this distinction will likely be a result of the curriculum followed by the graduate program as the Art Therapy Credentials Board (the credentialing body for art therapists) specifies specific curriculum requirements that must be met for a program to be considered accredited(1). Expressive arts therapy is often comprised of using multiple arts media during one therapy session. Meanwhile arts therapy often consists of using one art modality during a session to help clients and patients.
Expressive arts therapy and creative arts therapy are very similar and both utilize the creative arts as type of therapy. Both creative and expressive arts therapies focus on the creative process as opposed to the created product. The primary difference between the two is that expressive arts therapy includes multiple art modalities while creative arts therapy tends to only focus on one. Many colleges and universities offer master’s degree programs in both creative art therapy and expressive arts therapy.