“As we tap into the deep sources of bodily wisdom through creative art expression, we dance the renewal, recreation, and healing of ourselves and our world.”

This quote by Anna Halprin illustrates how creative expression not only helps to strengthen the body-mind connection but also aids in the process of our healing as individuals andas communities. When I first heard about the Expressive Arts Therapy Training Program at Northwest Creative and Expressive Arts Institute, I was ecstatic to find that there was an educational opportunity that blended my two greatest passions: expressive arts and mental health advocacy.

I could not have predicted how meaningful the program would be to not only my professional growth as a mental health therapist but also to my own personal growth and healing journey. The program is designed to be accessible to both those in graduate school as well as those already working in the field. The time commitment is manageable; yet, there is so much to learn and gain from participating.

Every weekend has felt like a simultaneously whimsical and practical workshop where professionals who work with a range of expressive arts including visual art, movement, drama, music, sandtray, and even yoga share their knowledge and skills with the cohort. Most of the time is spent engaging in experiential learning so each student is able to experience the act of creation as a therapeutic tool while also practicing how to utilize the interventions with fellow classmates. In addition, your internship site or regular work in the field can be used as your practicum experience outside of the classroom. Not to mention, there are a plethora of resources available bothduring the school hours and through the school’s online portal, which is available at any time.

The cohort aspect also helps to build a community of learners who feel comfortable showing vulnerability as well as inspiring and supporting one another throughout the ten-month duration of the program. In fact, each student is paired up with a “creative buddy;” together, the two of you can plan arts engagements which further encourages students to partake in their own artistic endeavors on one’s own time. Another element that further sets this training program experience apart is that students have the opportunity to meet in small groups during each program workshop weekend, which allows for even more individualized learning and discussion.

Due to the current pandemic, Northwest Creative and Expressive Arts Institute swiftly adapted to online programming in order to promote safety among students, staff members, and the community. I have been amazed at how powerful various expressive arts modalities can still be even through a virtual medium. It was helpful to learn how to utilize creative interventions with clients while using telecounseling as it has promoted accessible and inclusive treatment for clients now and in the future.

I have learned so much about myself and the healing nature of engaging in expressive arts during my time at Northwest Creative and Expressive Arts Institute. I have always been drawn to the arts for pleasure and expression as well as for processing my own trauma and life experiences. I feel very passionately about incorporating expressive arts modalities into my clinical work with clients, and I believe every single person is creative and can benefit from expression.

Creative expression is not about making what is deemed “good” or “worthy” by the outside world. Rather, creative expression is about accessing emotions that typical talk therapy cannot, discovering more about yourself, and also connecting with others through this process.

I can’t wait to continue engaging in my own arts practice as a form of self-care and self-love while also sharing these unique healing tools with others.

~Sarah Engelskirchen 
Graduate of the Professional Training Program, 2020