I am privileged to work with so many wonderful people who come to the institute for workshops and trainings. They come because they are drawn to the concept and practice of using the expressive arts for healing, but not everyone starts out being comfortable engaging in the arts experiences. Offering a safe space to explore and create is a core value we have for all of our programs. We do this by design, but we also teach how to do this with others, especially in our Expressive Arts Toolbox Workshop.

Expressive Arts Therapy is a creative arts approach that uses visual arts, writing, music & sound, movement & dance, and drama modalities in various therapeutic settings. Often, more than one arts modality is integrated with another to deepen the process.

There are myriad benefits to using expressive arts therapy in clinical work, and the work is available to all ages, abilities, backgrounds, and for any need. Check out the latest article from Psychology Today The only barrier to using Expressive Arts Therapy is not knowing how to use it effectively or appropriately. That, and art trauma.

Art trauma happens when the creative process and creative expression is interrupted or tampered with. This could happen at any time, but it happens a lot in the formative years of childhood and adolescence. It might go something like this:

Your 2ndgrade teacher comments on your drawing of a green and purple sun: “The sun is yellow, dear.”

You loved dance when you were in grade school, but once you hit middle school, so-and-so bully made some disparaging comments about your expressive moves, and since then you’ve been a wallflower.

You got up the nerve to try out for your high school musical and belted one out from your heart, but when that cast list went up without your name (even in the chorus?), you never wanted to sing again, except in the privacy of your shower.

I’m sure you get the idea. There is a sad idea that settles in: The arts are for someone else, not me. In one of our workshops, talking about art trauma during introductions came up quite a bit. It was distilled in one sentence: “I’m not good at it.”

Our culture doesn’t help the issue–marginalizing the arts, making the arts an “extra”, cutting arts programs in schools, and the like.

The truth is, creativity is for everyone, and the creative process is a human inclination. The expressive arts help humans communicate.They always have. From cave paintings, to Shakespeare, to The Notorious B.I.G. We tell our storiesand the stories of our timethrough the arts. You can do that too. You don’t have to be “good” at it. And you can learn how to work with the people you help every day. Our workshop, Expressive Arts Toolbox: Visual Arts and Writing Modalities will help you on your way.

Sibel Golden, PhD, LMHC, REAT
Executive Director and Faculty of NW Creative & Expressive Arts Institute

Highlights of Expressive Arts Toolbox:

  • How to choose art materials wisely.

  • How to foster the creative process

  • Understanding process vs product.

  • Creative ways to process the artwork.

  • Dig into the experience! Hands-on activities to learn the process so you can effectively engage with clients.

  • More than a dozen simple directives you can use with your clients right away!

We hope to see you there!