What is Expressive Arts Therapy

If you would like to contribute your own definition of Expressive Arts Therapy, please send your information to: AiT

Expressive Arts Therapy uses five art disciplines to assist the client/artist to make contact with his/her authentic self. We use dance,drama, music, visual arts, and poetry. Each discipline brings special strengths and abilities in bridging the expanse between the literal reality of “here now” and the world of the imagination, where life stories are written in mythic form and life experiences are held in symbols.

We use mmore than one art discipline so as to better follow the impulses of the client/artist as creative urges move from kinesthetic sense to auditory to visual image. We are expert at tracking and following these non-verbal messages. We use verbal reflection to help make sense of and more deeply understand the art making process and art produced.

We use the term “expressive arts” to distinguish this way of working from entertainment or purely aesthetic uses of art making. Our purpose is to make art that is a container for the suffering and conflicts of a life; and give voice to life’s joy and grandeur as well. We feel that art making is an inherent, if lost, faculty of all human beings. By engaging in the art making activity the client/artist participates in his/her own healing, using the language of his/her own psyche. It is guided from within, rather than imposed from without.

We view the therapeutic relationship as central to this process. It is an aesthetic relationship, with ethics, values and protocols which are particular to those unique circumstances which arise in the expressive arts studio where the client and therapist might find themselves up to their elbows in clay or putting on face paint, or crawling on the floor. The education of the expressive arts therapist differs from other creative arts therapists in that we are art based rather than psychology based and couch our work in the language and processes of the arts. An interdisciplinary education allows us to be influenced and informed by philosophy, psychology, studio art and other areas of study.

Expressive Arts Therapists work in numerous kinds of settings. Some settings include medical hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, community centers, business settings, public and private schools, and wellness communities.

The International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA) is the professional guild which oversees educational guidelines and professional registration for this field. They can be contacted at www.ieata.org.

Judith Greer Essex, Director, ISIS Institute
San Diego at www.arts4change.com

An International Community for Creative Arts Therapists