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6 Types of Expressive Therapies

There are several Types of Expressive Therapies that can be used to help people, especially those who are less verbal, explore their concerns and issues. While talk therapy is still the main treatment modem, expressive therapy in one or more of the accepted areas is being used in adjunct to traditional therapy and sometimes as the primary treatment.

History of Arts in Therapy

Artistic expression has been used in therapy for all of recorded history, according to an article in Psychology Today. The ancient Egyptians directed people with psychological problems to engage in the arts. The Greeks used drama as a catharsis for exploring mental illness.

Perhaps one of the most well-known incidents of the therapy is noted in the Bible. King Saul, who suffered from bouts of depression and may have been bi-polar, was soothed by the music played on a shepherd’s harp by David. In fact, Saul brought David to his court for that reason.

In the late 18th century and on in to the 19th, treatment of the mentally ill amounted to segregating them in asylums where little effort was made at therapy. In the late 1800s there was a push toward more humane treatment of these people and the use of many types of expressive therapies was introduced.

After the First World War, there were reports of miracle cures of soldiers who could not be reached by other means and who responded “miraculously” to music. The use of the arts in therapy became better known in the 1930s and 1940s.

Today, Types of Expressive Therapies are universally accepted methods of treating people whose response to traditional therapies is limited.

Types of Expressive Therapies

Although talk therapy remains the primary treatment mode, expressive therapy can address the individual differences in the way people communicate. The website Healthline.com says the approach is especially useful for people who “don’t know how to use feeling words.” Some people are more tactile, while others respond more to visual cues. These differences allow therapists to use the appropriate therapy with particular patients. There are several recognized designations of expressive therapy.

• Art Therapy employs media, images and the “creative processes” because they reflect the personalities and concerns of the patient. Therapists can identify themes of conflict or developmental lags through interpretation of the art produced.
• Music Therapy makes physical changes in brain waves and can put patients in a relaxed state more receptive to talk therapy. It has been shown to be effective in treatment of PTSD, Alzheimer’s, autism and other conditions.
• Drama Therapy is the “systematic and intended use of drama and theater processes’ to treat symptoms of mental illness. The client can use the format to safely “tell his story.”
• Dance and Movement Therapy is based on a theory that the mind and the body are inter-related, a theory proven in the use of placebo medications.
• Poetry or Bibliotherapy is the introduction of forms of literature into treatment.
• Play Therapy is a method of working with non-verbal patients, or those with limited communication skills such as children. Through observation and interaction with patients, therapists may identify themes of play, fears and emotions that can be treated with directed play and intervention by the therapist to give positive outcomes. Sandplay Therapy is a newer kind of play intervention that involves the use of a sandbox and miniature figures, allowing the client to illustrate issues and concerns

Education and Training of Therapists

The minimum education required to be a therapist is a master’s degree. Clinical psychologists have doctoral degrees. Aside from the graduate program, most therapists find it helpful to seek credentialing, or certification, in a particular therapy. There are several professional organizations that offer specialized certification. In addition, most people feel that it is necessary to have experience and training in the art form itself. Dance therapists should be dancers; art therapists should be artists in their own right. The level of proficiency is not as important as the understanding of the medium.

The use of the arts in treatment addresses many issues. It is employed in treating anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, grief, resolution of conflicts, issues arising with terminal diseases and with chronic pain, in addictions and other emotional problems. Employing these Types of Expressive Therapies allows therapists to work with clients who, with verbal therapy alone, would have limited success.

See also: Top 25 Master’s Degrees in Music Therapy 2016