Sandra Sneiderman on Expressive Arts Therapy

Expressive therapy uses the body and the senses to help individuals get in touch with deeper feeling states that often get stuck in complex defenses and thought patterns. You do not need to be an artist, dancer, actor, writer, or musician to benefit from expressive therapy. It is used with individuals, groups, and families; with adults, children, and elders; with issues ranging from everyday stressors, creative blocks, mental health issues, complex trauma, loss, desire for personal growth, dream exploration, and spiritual development.

Feeling states are more easily accessible through the body than through verbal language alone. For example, in drama therapy, when someone is given the freedom of a mask, they may find that it is the disguise itself that enables a self-revelation, allowing hidden parts to emerge. Someone creating a movement or dance for their emotional pain can move through it, where with verbal language alone they might tend to avoid the pain, creating a detour that their brain believes protects them, though it actually inhibits them and prevents them from experiencing the pain, keeping them trapped, feeling stuck and in a depressed state.

Expressive therapy incorporates the disciplines of drama therapy, music therapy, dance/movement therapy, art therapy and poetry therapy. The therapeutic experience is a dynamic interplay between the client, the therapist, the process of creating, and the art product. Some expressive therapists specialize in one discipline; however, many cross over using multiple disciplines accessing all the arts to tap into the human psyche. The product of the expression is often less important than the process itself. The medium used—art, poetry, movement, drama or music— strengthens self-connection and deepens insights, activating inner healing rooted in the human imagination.

In expressive therapy, the creative process and imagination are encouraged to reveal themselves in a space of safety held by the therapist. Imagination moves outside of linear thought processes; discoveries and changes occur through the activation of your impulses channeled into a creative process.

The wisdom of the body is often shunted aside in modern culture, where accomplishment and achievement are valued over inner
listening and receptivity. Expressive therapy provides pathways to opening up energetically and emotionally, with outcomes of heightened internal
and external connection. When we are given the opportunity to bypass more cognitive processes and listen and respond spontaneously to a sensory, felt embodied experience, opportunities arise for sacred, spiritual, and magic moments of awareness, integration, and healing.