Spoken language has many limits when it comes to communicating the total range of human emotions and experience, and the psychological realization that diverse forms of symbolic expression fulfill basic human needs. Cathy Malchiody uses the term “Expressive therapies” to designate the use of all of the arts in therapy. She define the term as an attempt to build bridges among the modalities and to create a strong new professional area that could participate as a peer with the older and larger disciplines of psychiatry, psychology and social work.
The use of arts in healing has deep and lasting roots in human experience. The original expressive therapists were inspired by visions of what the arts and the creative spirit can bring to the mental health field. The practice of expressive therapies that first took place in mental hospitals and clinics has now expanded to schools, hospices, community centers, disaster relief programs, churches, prisons, courts, cultural institutions, the workplace, and every conceivable setting committed to responding to the creative needs for people. All of a person’s expressive faculties dramatically enacting a conflict can offer insights and solutions that cannot be accessed through more linear verbal discussions. Jung experienced how the process of creation, without reliance on verbal explanation, heals by generating life-enhancing energies that revitalize the soul.
While talk is still the traditional method of exchange in therapy and counseling, practiotioners 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. For a child who has limited language, or elderly person who has lost the ability to talk because of a stroke or dementia, or a trauma victim who may be unable to put ideas into speech, expression through art, music, movement or play can be ways to convey oneself without words and may be the primary form of communication in therapy.
The therapeutic use of art, play or sandtray can augment the productive use of imagination, helping the individual discover and develop corrective solutions leading to change, resolution and reparation.
Info at: Malchiodi, C. (2005). Expressive Therapies. New York, The Guilford Press
Image at: http://www.derby.ac.uk/images/dr_5e84a02384b965569a9d001059238aa2.jpg