Expressive Therapy

Expressive Therapy


When Expressive Therapy is conducted the therapist uses aesthetics as tools and support for the patient. They are encouraged to use a mode of creative expression which helps them cope with depression and emotional problems they are currently fighting. The treatment is much different than a traditional session. It is created for patients who have a difficult time expressing concerns and emotions with others. It is conducted often with children who are unable to speak about their internal conflicts. These tools allow the patient to release these issues through creative expression which promotes healing and empowerment. The patient will become more self aware of the issues and the need to resolve them in a manner that isn't so confrontational.

Goals of Expressive Therapy

The goal of Expressive therapy is to promote healing and reveal any hidden truths or conflicts in a patient. The individual has no obligations in analyzing their own work because the goal is to help them by discussing the art in a non-judgmental manner and supportive setting. It is a unique way to represent a verbal description through art, dance and music. The focus of treatment is getting to know the feelings that are associated with the patient's aesthetics being that auditory and visual stimuli are often used as a mental and emotional outlet. The art symbolizes the pain that the client is experiencing, such as trauma or fear. The goal isn't to diagnose the final product but allow the patient to express themselves in a manner that they are comfortable with.  

When is Expressive Therapy Used?

Expressive Therapy is a broad category and can be used to treat various conditions by helping the patient familiarize themselves with their own emotions and expressions. Treatment may be used when a patient is dealing with depression, anxiety, stress, self esteem issues, interpersonal relationship conflicts, learning problems and eating disorders. The outlet can help clients who have been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer's, chronic conditions, trauma and addiction.

How Expressive Therapy Works

There are different types of treatment methods. Patients may interact with art therapy, music therapy, writing therapy, drama therapy or dance therapy. Each of these channels allows the individual to emphasize their own emotions through creative expression. For some it may be extremely difficult to speak about internal battles that they are facing verbatim. By representing an event or feeling through aesthetics they feel more comfortable. The therapist uses modality to help the patient explore themselves and communicate their concerns with others in an honest manner.

The therapist that is conducting the session is not going to critique the work that has been created by the client. They are going to work with them in interpreting what it means and the feelings that are associated with it. The therapist will use Expressive Therapy as a form of psychotherapy by allowing the patient to create whatever they choose as a representation of what they are going through. The process alone is a therapeutic way for the patient to deal with inner conflict.

The sessions vary depending on the outlet type. If it is art therapy the client will either draw or paint images that reflect their thoughts. Music therapy consists of singing, writing songs or playing instruments. Clients may also listen to music to bring out positive emotions being that sounds can help many cope with depression and worry. Sessions may consist of poetry and writing in which the individual can express their emotions on paper instead of verbally. If the session is a form of dance it will help people cope with any physical or mental illnesses through movement. This is a way to improve physical health as well. Drama therapy consists of improvising or acting for the purpose of expressing emotion and coping.

Criticisms of Expressive Therapy

There isn't a guarantee that creative therapies help treat those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because there isn't enough controlled trials that have been conducted. Studies haven't revealed what type of patient suffering from trauma would benefit the most from aesthetic therapy. Some experts believe that there isn't enough consistency in terms of art therapy and symptoms that are related to trauma. Some researchers believe that the studies lack controlled conditions although the majority of the patients in the group improve. On the upside Expressive Therapy conducts safe and controlled interactions. The interactions may not be fully explained because there is a lack of a controlled condition. Many experts criticize treatment because it isn't always clear as to what components of therapy lead to success.


Smyth, J. (n.d.). Creative, artistic, and expressive therapies for ptsd. Retrieved from

What is expressive therapy?. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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