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5 Reasons Why Expressive Art As Therapy Is Useful

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Expressive Art

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Arts and the creative process are often said to be therapeutic for practitioners. Indeed, modern psychology emphasizes creativity and expression as important indicators of mental health and well-being. Therapists nowadays are increasingly engaging with their clients to help them express their thoughts, notions, fears, and feelings through art forms.

The earliest forms of art in history had elements of community and togetherness. Yet, Art is also a means of individual expression and personal enhancement. This is especially true with the expressive arts. Here is a rundown of its importance, both in itself and as a form of therapy and psychological aid.

Art is about expression; it is also an important skill to develop to vent out feelings and engage with the inner self. Art helps us make sense of the world around our own self and us within it.

Photo by Kira Auf der Heide, Unsplash

What Is Meant by ‘Expressive Arts’?

Expressive art may refer to any performing art like dancing, singing, or the visual arts such as painting, sketching, and others. The key feature of expressive arts is that they allow for and contain prominent elements of personal expression on an individual level, originally and creatively. All forms of art contain such elements, yet they are not the basis of the arts themselves. This, however, changes with expressive arts, where individual creativity, subjectivity, and personality are important components.

Photo by Tim Mossholder, Unsplash

Art in itself is a means of expression. Among the several art forms, expressive arts lay great emphasis on the psychological aspect of individual creativity. From color and shapes to form and movement, this form of art can be a great way to learn about oneself and develop a greater understanding while being creative at the same time.

Why Is Expressive Art Important?

Expressive arts emphasize personal growth and self-discovery other than creativity. Expressive arts thus are important for several reasons:

1. Enhances Self-Awareness

Expressive art gives us the ability to explore our ideas and thoughts. It gives us the means to be creative fully express ourselves as an individual and recognize the traits and characteristics which define our habits and form a part of us. This can be either on paper, like writing and poetry, or through movement or singing. It also helps us shed our notions and fully let go and allow our inner selves to take over.

2. Enable Us to Process Our Feelings

This form of art involves us putting down our thoughts on paper. This gives us the means to vent out our feelings, both positive and negative. It helps us to understand the meaning of our feelings and how we express them. In doing so, we learn to understand the causes and significance of these expressed feelings over time creatively.

3. Leads To Emotional Development

Expressive arts let us freely creatively express our emotions. It encourages us to invest ourselves and immerse fully into the individualized creative process. Learning to deal with our emotions is an important skill and can be developed by opening up and recognizing the meanings of our expressions and feelings. This helps us to develop emotionally and also be more empathetic and to others.

4. Important to Enhance Creative Processes

Creativity is an important aspect of all art forms and requires practice. Expressive art is also a creative pursuit; however, since it does not focus on conventional and systematized art forms, it gives us a free state. With this, we can fully express ourselves without fear of judgment or comparison. Over time, we learn to channel our creativity properly and become better at it.

5. Helps In Healing 

Being personal and individual-oriented, this form of art is a great way to recover emotionally from past experiences. Proper expression and deliberation through art help us maintain our mental health. Keeping our thoughts cooped up inside can create several problems like anxiety, stress, fear, and so much more in the long run. Thus expressive art is very suitable as an activity that is therapeutic and healing as well as creative.

What Is Expressive Arts Therapy?

Expressive Arts therapy refers to a distinctive approach of combining psychology and forms of creative arts like dance, music, art, etc., to promote personal growth and healing through several different modes. This form of therapy focuses on expressing inner feelings by creating outer forms. This therapy approach is non-intimidating and especially helpful for those who have not had success with traditional psychological therapy. Expressive art therapy does not force people to come up with answers by questioning them but instead focuses on the creative arts as a sufficient outlet.

Photo by Valerie Titova, Unsplash

Expressive arts focus on four aspects of therapeutic impact on the people undergoing expressive arts therapy:

  1. The imagination involved in the art form
  2. Expression of thoughts and feelings
  3. Participation by the individual
  4. The Mind and body connection

How is Expressive Arts Therapy Useful?

1. Focuses on Initiating Change Through Self-Discovery and Active Participation

Expressive arts therapy utilizes creative output as a therapeutic tool. Unlike Art therapy, which focuses on a particular mode of art or a particular art form of the creative arts, expressive arts therapy is clearly broader and less inhibited- it allows great room for an individual to try their hand at various art forms, whether they be visual arts like painting or sketching or examples of performing art such as dancing, movements, singing, etc.

2. Encourages The Individual To Be Expressive, Free, and Confident

While undergoing expressive arts therapy, people are encouraged to explore their inner world. And put themselves forth in a manner that they prefer and like. This makes therapy itself much friendlier and likable for them. They can use their skills to remember their experiences, express thoughts and feelings without discomfort or fear of judgment, and in a personalized and friendlier manner.

3. Allows People To Come Out of Their Shell

Expressive Arts therapists have a wide variety of means at their disposal to encourage their clients to fully open up in an emotional manner, which can be hard sometimes with conventional therapy. The latter can use sound, imagery, color, movement, sculpting, origami, drama, poetry, roleplaying, writing, as forms of expression, thus making expressive arts therapy truly accessible and enjoyable for them.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska, Unsplash

4. Does Not Put Any Pressure On People.

Expressive arts therapy is also great for clients because it does not focus on artistic output but instead on the process of creation expressed in that art. People undergoing expressive arts therapy do not require artistic talent to become involved. Rather, expressive arts therapy can even encourage creative skills and result in significant emotional growth. Each creative arts mode is unique, and expressive arts therapists engage with their clients to find one suitable for them.

5. Helps Develop Skills Like Creativity

Over time, this can help the mind and body overcome problems, negative thoughts, or other issues at its own pace. This approach is thus much milder and does not appear harsh or tough to the person undergoing expressive arts therapy and seeking a way of growth and healing. It also encourages emotional development and enhances skills like writing, forming connections with the self, etc.

Thus, Expressive art is a great means of therapy since it gives clients great freedom to choose how they want to engage with their emotions and thoughts by expressing them according to their own preferences. Children can develop their skills and undergo emotional growth and development through expressive arts therapy. This is true for adults as well. It helps individuals form a connection with their inner being and promotes self-awareness. With the emphasis on creative expression, children can develop a deep interest in the performing or visual arts for life. This goes a long way in building self-esteem and confidence.

Expressive arts therapy also fosters the development of the creative process and helps with maintaining mental health later in life. The ability to open up to yourself and express yourself honestly and emotionally is an important one. It makes a habit of creating a connection between the mind and the body. It is an important skill to build for life and helps one in the later years.

This article explores what is meant by expressive art and how it is different from regular art therapy and why it is important.

An important aspect of expressive art therapy and psychology is maintaining mental soundness by managing stress. Here is another article to go through on how to combat stress.

What do you feel about the significance of expressive arts therapy? Would you consider participating in it or encouraging a child to do so? How do you think this form of therapy can aid in character development?

Please take the time to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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