Expressive Arts Therapies

The Creative interventions of Art therapy, Guided Imagery Through Music, Psychodrama, Creative Writing, Play Therapy, and Sandtray Therapy have been utilized for more than 70 years. These are referred to as “creative arts therapies” because of their roots in the arts and theories of creativity. Expressive arts therapies are defined as the use of art, music, drama, dance/movement, poetry/creative writing, bibliotherapy, play, and sandplay within the context of psychotherapy, counseling, rehabilitation, or medicine. Additionally, expressive therapies are sometimes referred to as “integrative” when various arts are purposively used in combination in treatment.

Integrative Approaches

Integrative approaches involve two or more expressive therapies to foster awareness, encourage emotional growth, and enhance relationships with others. This approach distinguishes itself through combining modalities within a therapy session. Integrative approaches are based on a variety of orientations, including arts as therapy, arts psychotherapy, and the use of arts for traditional healing (Estrella, 2005; Knill, Levine, & Levine, 2005).

Why Relaxation & Mindfulness?

In addition to the disciplines and approaches mentioned above, many therapists integrate activities that enhance relaxation as part of trauma intervention. Relaxation techniques often include creative components such as music, movement, or art making. For example, guided imagery or visualizationmeditation, and other methods of stress reduction are also used with individuals who have experienced trauma or loss.

Finally, art, music, drama and play have sometimes been incorrectly labeled as “nonverbal” therapies. They are both verbal and nonverbal because verbal communication of thoughts and feelings is a central part of therapy in most situations. In fact, most therapists who use these methods integrate them within a psychotherapy approach. In all cases, these approaches are "brain-wise" interventions that stimulate whole-brain responses to help individuals of all ages experience reparation, recovery and well-being.


Sand Tray Worlds

Sandplay Therapy is a creative form of psychotherapy that uses a sandbox and a large collection of miniatures to enable a client to explore the deeper layers of his or her psyche in a totally new format; by constructing a series of “sand pictures,” a client is helped to illustrate and integrate his or her psychological state.

The use of sand either black volcanic, orange Sedona, purple garnet or white crystal, creates a ground for the waiting story to inhabit.  Into this world we project our own story.  This experience allows each creator to play out fantasies and to externalize the workings of the psyche, making concrete in three dimensions the inner world, free from the interpretations of others. The "Soul" knows its own story and reveals its meaning to the creator of each unique world. This then is the land of the psyche.

Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.
— C. G. Jung

Play Therapy

Through play, a child develops self-confidence, a positive self-image and learns to express feelings, make decisions and cope with real-life situations.

Play Therapy is a method of establishing a relationship and utilizing the field of “play” as a catalyst to support prevention or resolutions of psychosocial difficulties while achieving optimal growth and development. (Crenshaw & Stewart 2014).             

Play therapy offers a child a safe place to play with and express (instead of talking about) their thoughts, feelings and problems. I choose objects that encourage “fantasy play,” such as clay, sand, water, drawing materials and puppets, as well as toys that enable a child to act out real-life scenarios. This promotes a supportive relationship with the child, which encourages the child to open up through the symbolic language of play. The child is given complete freedom to control his play and actions. In such a protective, yet empowering environment, the child generally leads the therapist to the source of his emotional disturbance through his activity and behavior. (Jane Framingham, Ph.D)



Art is the act of triggering deep memories of what it means to be fully human.
— David Whyte

Art Therapy

Many years as an Art Teacher and a Waldorf Teacher, has provided me experience with various materials when utilizing Art Therapy. Mask making, mandala, drawing, painting, collage, light-table black/white silhouette drawing, dream-jars, and visual journals, altered books, clay or bead art are just a few ways art therapy can apply art activities within a therapeutic setting.

Art therapists use Carl Jung’s practice of active imagination as a way of accessing and consulting with one's inner wisdom. Essentially, this is a process of consciously dialoguing with your unconscious. Art as the narrative, allows us to translate experiences into a concrete form.

Creating an externalized object, provides a way of detaching from intrusive thoughts, feelings, and memories in order to transform them. “Rather than remaining a disturbing mixture of free-floating emotions, experiences are placed in an objective, historical context.” (Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC) This can take the format of a "dialogue with the image," free association with the artwork's contents, spontaneous journaling about an artwork or dream, witnessing one's drawing or painting, or even an invitation to write a "rant" in the tradition of free-form poetry or prose about an image or series of images.

It is not surprising that as I create or support the process of my client, we experience a connection and in that relationship, a dance of insight awakens the journey. This is similar to neuroscience physician, Dan Siegel’s concept of “mindsight” or the capacity for insight and empathy. Trauma expert Bruce Perry uses the terms “attunement” as a way to read the nonverbal communication of others.