Expressive Arts Therapies
The Creative interventions of Art therapy, Guided Imagery Through Music, Psychodrama, Creative Writing, Play Therapy, and Sandtray Therapy have been utilized for more than 70 years. These are referred to as “creative arts therapies” because of their roots in the arts and theories of creativity. Expressive arts therapies are defined as the use of art, music, drama, dance/movement, poetry/creative writing, bibliotherapy, play, and sandplay within the context of psychotherapy, counseling, rehabilitation, or medicine. Additionally, expressive therapies are sometimes referred to as “integrative” when various arts are purposively used in combination in treatment.
Sand Tray Worlds
Sandplay Therapy is a creative form of psychotherapy that uses a sandbox and a large collection of miniatures to enable a client to explore the deeper layers of his or her psyche in a totally new format; by constructing a series of “sand pictures,” a client is helped to illustrate and integrate his or her psychological state.
The use of sand either black volcanic, orange Sedona, purple garnet or white crystal, creates a ground for the waiting story to inhabit. Into this world we project our own story. This experience allows each creator to play out fantasies and to externalize the workings of the psyche, making concrete in three dimensions the inner world, free from the interpretations of others. The “Soul” knows its own story and reveals its meaning to the creator of each unique world. This then is the land of the psyche.
I studied with Dr. Gisela Schubach De Domenico, the originator of the Sandtray Worldplay method. It grew out of the Jungian movement in the 1920’s when Margaret Lowenfeld MD used play with miniature figures, sand, and water in a blue bottomed, aluminum metal tray container in her 1920’s London Play Therapy Clinic. She had been inspired by a childhood reading of H. G. Well’s Floorgames (1906). According to Gisela, “Some of my own clients and students have called it a shamanic journey, a looking into the Mirror, a place to find self, a meditation, trance work, a spiritual quest, a journey to the ancestors, a private drama, inventing my life, genesis play, a place to talk to Mom, God’s time, and playground earth. (taken from one of Gisela’s articles)
Many years as an Art Teacher and a Waldorf Teacher, has provided me experience with various materials when utilizing Art Therapy. Mask making, mandala, drawing, painting, collage, light-table black/white silhouette drawing, dream-jars, and visual journals, altered books, clay or bead art are just a few ways art therapy can apply art activities within a therapeutic setting.
Art therapists use Carl Jung’s practice of active imagination as a way of accessing and consulting with one’s inner wisdom. Essentially, this is a process of consciously dialoguing with your unconscious. Art as the narrative, allows us to translate experiences into a concrete form.
Creating an externalized object, provides a way of detaching from intrusive thoughts, feelings, and memories in order to transform them. “Rather than remaining a disturbing mixture of free-floating emotions, experiences are placed in an objective, historical context.” (Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC) This can take the format of a “dialogue with the image,” free association with the artwork’s contents, spontaneous journaling about an artwork or dream, witnessing one’s drawing or painting, or even an invitation to write a “rant” in the tradition of free-form poetry or prose about an image or series of images.
It is not surprising that as I create or support the process of my client, we experience a connection and in that relationship, a dance of insight awakens the journey. This is similar to neuroscience physician, Dan Siegel’s concept of “mindsight” or the capacity for insight and empathy. Trauma expert Bruce Perry uses the terms “attunement” as a way to read the nonverbal communication of others.
Gesture in Colors: This is the use of listening to music while standing and painting or the use of pastels to give expression to Gesture and Movement. This provides an expression of Emotions and Sensations, bringing new form to our Narratives.
SoulCollage® is a therapeutic method that Seena B. Frost, LMFT, M.Div. began formulating in 1989. Frost drew elements from the concepts, methods, and therapy systems of traditional sources, such as Jungian analytical psychology and Jung’s concept of “Active Imagination,” Virginia Satir’s “parts therapy,” Fritz Perls’ Gestalt Therapy, Humanistic Psychology, Transpersonal Psychology, Narrative Therapy, and Psychosynthesis. Frost fashioned a simple, effective, new method, the SoulCollage® method, from these elements. When therapists use the SoulCollage® method, their clients make collaged cards, arranging self-selected images to represent aspects of themselves and their lives. The clients then use the cards to access their intuition and imagination by entering into a gestalt process, dialoguing with a card, using their own voice and the voice in the image on a card, to discover the card’s narrative and its meaning for them in their lives. © 2017 Mariabruna Sirabella and Kylea Tayl
“When you hold them [the cards] all together in your hands, you will be holding a symbolic reflection of your one, many faceted, evolving Soul. The longer you work with the images, the more power they have to reveal and change patterns in your life.” (FROST, Seena B., 2010, pg. 2).