Expressive therapy is an umbrella term for approaches which aid self-expression, active participation, imagination and mind-body connections. I incorporate art therapy, drama, and sandtray therapy when it is helpful to the psychotherapy and in the client’s best interest.
1) Self-expression: Helping clients communicate aspects of memories and stories that may not be available through conversation.
2) Active participation: The experience of doing, making and creating can energise individuals, redirect attention and focus and alleviate emotional stress.
3) Imagination: A healing agent in all forms of self-expression. People who have been traumatised or neglected or disturbed in some way may feel emotionally constricted. The therapeutic use of art, role play or sand tray, can develop the use of imagination, helping the client discover and develop corrective solutions, leading to change and resolution.
4) Mind-body connections: Art and movement are particularly helpful in tapping the body’s relaxation response. The experiential and sensory nature of expressive therapies can help clients access a state BEFORE words are dominant. This approach can allow the brain to establish new, more productive patterns.
I provide art media such as paints, pastels, and collage. These mediums are used to help clients express emotional conflict in circumstances where talk therapy is ineffective, resisted, or perhaps the client is not yet ready to talk.
At times I introduce role play, to help a client make sense of a relationship which may be distressing, or to come to a place of resolution with someone from the past (working on ‘unfinished business’ in the present). I may suggest the client role plays talking to his mother for example and then role plays his mother, responding. Sometimes I play a role with the client, i.e. a difficult boss or landlord: this can help the client develop self-assertion and self-confidence. Finishing a ‘scene’ in a different way in the present often aids change, leading to understanding and personal growth.
A creative form of psychotherapy which uses a sandbox and a collection of miniatures to enable a client to explore the deeper layers of the psyche. By constructing a series of ‘sand pictures’, a client can be helped to express what perhaps cannot yet be expressed verbally.
I also incorporate gestalt therapy into my practice as it compliments expressive therapies, being considered an experiential approach in itself. This method aims to help the individual to be self-supportive and self-responsible. The primary therapeutic tool is the development of awareness of what is going on within the self at any given moment, including extending awareness to body sensations. Gestalt’s objective is to enable the client to become more fully and creatively alive, allowing the client to break free from ‘blocks’ and ‘unfinished business’ and to experiment with new ways of being.