What Expressive Therapy can Include
Expressive Therapy can include many different forms of expression. These might include:
Collage or other Art Projects
Imagery and Visualization
Expressive Therapy was created by Marie José Dhaese. More Information about training and methods of work can be found at Marie José's Centre for Expressive Therapy. Expressive Therapy is holistic and for all ages. It starts by aiding you to connect with your own strengths and resources. From there you are better able to move into the next steps of deeper exploration of difficult concerns. The type of expressive method that you engage with is based on your natural inclination and personal struggles. At some times age is take in consideration for practical use of some items but not as a restrictive method making methods "age appropriate." Being able to explore expressive therapy is age appropriate for all ages! Again, you can read about Marie José Dhaese's approach that I am trained in and utilize here.
Who Can Benefit from Expressive Therapy
All ages can benefit from expressive therapy. You not only get the benefit of expressive therapy but also in incorporating natural objects as much as possible. As Marie José Dhaese states:
"There is nothing as powerful as the beauty of nature to soothe and heal the senses and help connect with body, soul and spirit."
Nature-Based Therapy and Expressive Therapy lend themselves so well to working together and naturally combine in many ways. Nervous system regulation occurs when we are engaging in the natural world and this includes with utilizing natural materials. Having different fabrics and textiles can meet various sensory and regulation needs that are unique to each individual's sensory processing, personal history and therapeutic journey.
Expressive Therapy has been proven to help various ages - children and adults - and various concerns. Some of these concerns include:
- Abuse (emotional, physical, sexual)
- Grief, loss and bereavement
- Life transitions, including foster care and adoption
- Spiritual crisis
- Traumas of all types
What might this look like in session?
Fabrics and textiles can be used to keep hands busy while talking to better integrate the discussion being had or navigate a more difficult discussion with a bit more ease.
Felt balls can be used to toss and catch for movement (rocking and bilateral stimulation) while enjoying their soft fibres and squeeze.
Sand play can have a grounding effect when sifting through the grains for some, or perhaps you want to use the sand to express an image or scene.
Painting or drawing can be a method of expression in the actual act of HOW you are engaging and sometimes it is the effort towards the expression you are trying to convey beyond words
Music can have a healing effect on many, and each have their own songs. It may include creating your music or expressing through art to a specifically picked song by your counsellor.
Sculpting maybe with clay, play-dough or other forms fluffy or kinetic materials; you may create a symbolic image or need to move your hands to regulate during a difficult session.
The methods that you choose in session will be methods that you are comfortable enough to explore and maybe even drawn towards. If any method causes you sensory concerns or discomfort you would not be asked to engage with it. Expressive Therapy is a very client led counselling that often aids where sometimes talk therapy is not sufficient for the needed processing and expression.
Tips for Expressive Therapy
Whether you are exploring Expressive Therapy as an adult or it is being utilized in the play room you may benefit from viewing a few of these considerations.
Everyone is an Artist
Sometimes we are harsh to our inner creative side. You might have thought before that there is no way you could be an artist and be timid to try exploring art for fear of judgment. With Expressive Therapy everyone is an artist! There are many ways to be an artist and expressive yourself. This might include painting or drawing or it might be sand play, knitting, music or movement. There are so many ways that we can express beyond our words that it might be helpful for you to explore.
It is Not about the Finished Product
The most productive part of working with art and other expressive therapies is usually in the act of creating it and not the final product. You might not need a final product but need instead to have therapeutic scribbling, fast or slow paint strokes, messy hands, or to just keep your body present and moving while working through difficult topics. In these cases it will not be about the final product but rather about the movements and journey of creation itself tapping into something that you might not be able to express with your words.
Break Eye Contact and Loosen Up - Fidget!
Sometimes during talk therapy it can be tempting to get into a staring contest with your counsellor without even realizing it. Suddenly you might find yourself questioning if you are too rigid in posture, what you should do with your arms or hands while talking, or analyzing your every micro movement. If you tend to get lost in the multiple conversations you are having within yourself around this and the conversation with your counsellor then consider Expressive Therapy. Find something that you can fidget with in a relaxed way like holding a natural object like a stone, rope, clay or cloth. You might even consider painting, colouring, knitting or felting during your talk therapy to reach a deeper level of session work and possibly even quiet some of those inner critic thoughts.