What happens in an Expressive Arts Therapy session? What am I supposed to do?
While each session is uniquely customized for a client, here are some of the typical activities you may experience in Expressive Arts Therapy:
In the office, you’ll see a lot of art supplies. There may be tools for drawing, collaging, sculpting, fantasy, imagery, creative dramatics, music, movement, kinetic sand, fabric, storytelling, writing, photography and even games. Expressive Arts Therapy is multi-modal, meaning that many art forms are used, and can transition into one-another.
You and your EXA Therapist will have a short discussion about where you’re at (emotionally, and psychologically). Before delving into any art, you may start with a bit of meditation, relaxation or somatic (body oriented) exercises.
Then, based on that, your EXA Therapist will ask you to start writing a poem, tell a story, paint a picture, or whatever the day may have in store (and yes, you can help decide which art form you want to pursue). There will be a subject you’ll be asked to create the art about. An example ‘assignment’ could be to write a letter to your future self, or to do a role play exercise. Or you may come to the session with a particular concern, which we will attend to. Each session is customized to your individual and unique needs.
Expressive Arts Therapy can have an element of fun to it. You’ll get to use your imagination to paint, write, sculpt etc. The art you create is all based on your present inspirations, just like when you were a kid. It’s a space where there is no such thing as the ‘wrong’ way to do art. There is no expectation to complete a task. EXAT is very open-ended and open-minded, while still being well-thought-out.
After say, drawing, you may then move on to poetry, or dance, as time allows.
You might be asked to talk about what you’re creating (so yes, talking is still part of it!). Questions may come up to help you turn your abstractions and metaphors into concrete thoughts. For example, you may be asked, “what does that sound like?” or, “where in the body do you feel that sensation?” or, “If this object could talk, what would it say to you?” and so on.
Other times, the intuition of the Expressive Arts Therapist will be to remain silent, and to let you explore…these times of uninterrupted ‘flow’ are just as important. Remember, the whole aim is to help you come to your own realizations.
The session will wrap up with an exercise to ‘release’ your thoughts and energies. We also summarize the session and prep you for returning back to ‘real life.’ That is where you can then, hopefully, learn to practice facing your challenges with the new realizations that have come about in the session. With your permission, the Expressive Arts Therapist may also give you ‘homework’ to do during the week. This can be simple, such as trying to write a letter from right hand to left hand, or writing a poem (rhyming and ‘form’ not necessary!).
And if you feel like you can’t do it, or you feel that you’ve had a failure, that’s ok! That’s what the next session is for! We’ll just pick up and keep going!