We move, we dance. We paint, we sculpt.
We listen to and play music. We embody and act. We write and become poets.
The Expressive Arts use visual arts, movement/dance, theater, poetry, and music to tap into our imagination. Not only is art-making intrinsically therapeutic, it allows us to explore our past, our present, and our future directions in a multi-sensory way. Because each art form connects us to different sensory experiences, a different perspective or a new way of knowing can be discovered through the arts.
We dance the painting,
paint the poem,
and tell the sorrows and the joys of the symphony.
By working in multiple art media, we deepen and amplify the process of self-discovery and personal healing. The arts are a safe container that can hold both our light and our dark. They let us see not only what is lost, broken, and missing from our lives, but also what is strong, vital, and working. Expressive Arts reconnect and help us to live meaningful, rich, and soulful lives.
We reflect, notice, and make connections to our lives.
We take time to explore what happened during the art-making and the product that emerged. We reflect on the process we went through, challenges, how we got through the challenges. We notice the thoughts, feelings, and memories that emerge. We also look closely and appreciate the details of line, shape, color, movement, action, stillness, sound, and silence. And, then we ask, how does this connect to your life?
The Expressive Arts have a rich and complex philosophical background, which cannot be easily summed up. However, there are four tenets which are of value in differentiating it from other arts therapies:
Expressive Arts are based upon the practice and language of art, rather than psychology. Expressive Arts facilitators use low skill, high sensitivity methods of art making which emphasize art as a tool for self-discovery. Art-making helps us restore what is lost, broken and missing in our lives. It leads to emotional and psychological healing through the aesthetic experience.
Expressive Arts are non-interpretive. The artist is immersed in a creative dialogue with art and art-making that is phenomenological in nature. That is to say they engage their work by noticing its observable physical properties such as color of line, quality of motion, or rhythm of song, without assigning meaning to these qualities. In this way, artists remain "with" their images and processes, without the literal interpretation that sometimes interferes with the process of self-discovery through art-making.
Expressive Arts are interdisciplinary. Each art discipline offers a unique sensory experience. For instance, the essential sensory modality of dance is kinesthetic, whereas in music it is auditory. By working across art disciplines, we can tap into the multi-sensory potential of imagination, and its ability to inform us about our past, our present and our personal myth. By using multiple media, one's experiences are deepened and amplified beyond their original form.
Expressive Arts are informed by post-modern views of philosophy and psychology. Expressive Arts Therapy utilizes the imagination's ability to connect us to our inner world of myth, meaning and images. Our philosophical roots include existentialism and phenomenology, as well as the influences of James Hillman, archetypal psychology; Steve De Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, solution-oriented approaches; Michael White and Harleen Anderson, narrative approaches; and Laura Brown and Judith Butler, feminist approaches to psychotherapy.