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Expressive Art Therapies in Mental Health

There are times in our lives when we feel stuck in the past and are overwhelmed by our emotions, and find it difficult to express ourselves. Sometimes ‘talking’ about our problems does not help us heal our emotional wounds, nor does it help us recover from the thoughts related to it. So, naturally we seek something more, that will help us when we are struggling emotionally, feeling anxious, having issues focusing (on our daily task). In such situations, among many others, we rely on expressive and creative art therapy.




Expressive art therapy; which includes - Art, Dance/Movement, Writing, Music and Drama, therapy; These therapies are a medium to explore emotions that assist people to find different and unique ways of expression. It is an holistic approach to healing as it involves the interconnection between the mind, body and the spirit.


Expressive art therapy; which includes - Art, Dance/Movement, Writing, Music and Drama, therapy; These therapies are a medium to explore emotions that assist people to find different and unique ways of expression. It is an holistic approach to healing as it involves the interconnection between the mind, body and the spirit.




For example, Art therapy uses techniques such as colouring, drawing, doodling, painting, and scribbling whereas Drama therapy uses role-play, projection, distancing, storytelling, enactment, improvisations and others.


These interventions are based on the idea that one can heal and reduce the risk of mental health issues using creative/artistic expressions to express themselves in the way that suits them the most.


For example, Music therapy, an evidence based therapy, involves creating; singing; moving or listening to music.

According to AMTA research on Music therapy supports its efficacy in : increasing motivation to engage in treatment and exercise ; facilitating movement. Other benefits of music therapy include : providing stimulation to the brain ; increasing self-esteem ; decreasing pain and increasing relaxation ; assisting in and encouraging speech, language, verbal and non-verbal communication


According to AATA, “ Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress”.


Apart from the uses mentioned earlier art therapy has been seen to have benefited patients who have experienced trauma, are dealing with chronic illness or any other type of illness, including mental disorders ( Robert A. Bitonte et al, 2014).




According to AADT, Movement therapy is based on the fact that movement is our first non-verbal language playing an important role in enhancing our expression, communication and development.


Studies on the effectiveness of Drama therapy have shown promising results related to enhancing social skills in children with autism using drama therapy ( D’Amico et al, 2015). Another study suggested that drama therapy can be used as a therapeutic technique to reduce the symptoms of social anxiety (European Psychiatry.2009). There are many such studies conducted that show the importance and efficacy of drama therapy in supporting people suffering with anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress, grief and loss, among others

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