How Expressive Art Therapy can be used for healing.

Art, Music, Drama and Dance Therapists have long been used for healing throughout time. The field of Expressive Arts Therapy is a growing field of practice used by many healing professionals from nurses, doctors, psychotherapist, occupational therapist and rehabilitation specialists. The Expressive Arts Therapy is the of use of the arts for healing and self enhancement. Expressive Arts Therapy includes: Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance/Movement Therapy and Drama Therapy, Creative Writing and Journaling. The Expressive Arts that are used for stress reduction, relaxation, relieving chronic pain, brain injury rehabilitation, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and trauma.  It is also used with adults as well as children.  With adults, Expressive Arts is used to help relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.  The arts are also used with such populations as alcohol and drug rehabilitation, and the homeless population.  

Children gain great benefits from the use of art for dealing with trauma from abuse, social trauma, and trauma from natural disasters.  They also benefit from the arts for therapy with regards to  learning disorders, behavioral issues, as well as special needs children and children on the Autism Spectrum healing and much more. 

Expressive Arts are also used with geriatric for working with Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease to name a few.  The treatment options go on and on. The Expressive Arts are known as the NON-verbal therapies, and can access deeper levels of a person’s psychological awareness than your commonly known talk therapies. The arts, movement and music help bring the elderly together and helps to increase their socialization, relieve depression, insomnia and even pain.

 Our Veterans who return home from long being away from their families, and have faced the trauma and devastation of war often suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The use of art, mask making, painting, music, storytelling are all powerful modalities for treating and healing their trauma as well as using these modalities with their families to help them reintegrate back into their family and community.

Natural disasters victims are another  population who gain great healing benefits from the expressive arts. When people experience a natural disaster such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other such natural devistations, they also suffer with PTSD, grief and loss and depression. Trained expressive arts therapists can use art, music, psychodrama to help relieve the stress and pressure of the traumatic event, and give the sufferers a way to express their disastrous event when they can not find the words.

Let’s not forget that creativity in all of its forms in addition to helping with emotional distress, can also help to reduce stress, enhance creative thinking and problem solving, heal and regenerate the body/mind/spirit. The arts can help us to discover our goals and envision them materializing in our world.  The arts can be used to release past pain, and heal those places where the pain once resided allowing for emotional and psychological healing to occur.

Other areas where Expressive Arts are used are in the corporate world as well as for world healing and peace.  Corporations will hire an Expressive Arts Therapist to enhance employee assistance programs.  With the use of Expressive Arts, a company can help their employees be more productive on the job.  Learn better communication skills and leadership skills, through fun and enjoyable exercises.  

Additionally, Expressive Arts can be brought into the global arena where it can be used to bring together communities and create a space and avenue for global healing. In 

 2007, the International Criminal Court accepted 500 children’s drawings depicting the conflict in Darfur as contextual evidence for war crime trials against Sudanese officials.  The children's drawings used as evidence of the “truthfulness” of conflict.

In November 2007, it was announced that 500 children’s drawings, depicting thevconflict in Darfur and collected as evidence by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the war trials indicated that the drawings would be used in the case against the Sudanese President, Umar Hassan Al Bashir, after the ICC issued anarrest warrant against him on charges of crimes against humanity and warcrimes. In 2010, a further arrest warrant was issued for Al-Bashir under the accusation of genocide.  All because of the drawing of children who were victims of inhuman acts.  This example shows how art can be used on a global level for justice and healing.

The San Diego University for Integrative Studies trains Expressive Arts Therapists with a Certification, a Master’s Degree or a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with special in Expressive Arts Therapy.  This involves training psychology along with additional training in Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance/Movement Therapy, Psychodrama and Writing/Myth & Folklore. An Expressive Arts often uses the arts with their clients in a multitude of environments such as private practice, groups therapy, hospitals, and other treatment facilities and on site trauma environments where there are people suffering with disasters.

 The field of Expressive Arts Therapy is a growing field, and the social awareness is growing as well.  There is a need to get this information out to those who may be interested in working in this powerful, creative and fulfilling field.

Contact me at: or contact the San Diego University for Integrative Studies at, (619) 297-1999.

Yvette Lyons, Ph.D.