3 min

Creative Interventions: Art, Music, and Drama in Therapy

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Art therapists have long known that visual representation of feelings and desires can be more telling than words alone. Many clients also find that art, music, drama, and other creative activities allow them to unlock new insights about themselves.

In addition, creative expression is one of the best tools for relieving emotional stress and building self-awareness. If a client struggles to talk about their feelings- as many do- these interventions reinforce a safe space for exploration.

Here are some suggestions for engaging in a more creative process in your work:

Art Therapy Techniques

Art in therapy is different from professional art therapy, and it's essential to know the nuance.

Therapists certified by the American Art Therapy Association have advanced training in art therapy activities. It's a protected term, meaning you should never throw around that you do art therapy if you don't have the expertise to provide this service.

That said, all therapists can use different expressive, artistic techniques to support their clients.

  • Painting and drawing: Asking clients to draw pictures indicating a particular scene or feeling can be helpful for understanding how they perceive a specific situation. In group settings, this can also reinforce a sense of camaraderie.
  • Mask making: Mask making helps with issues related to depression, poor body image, trauma, and anxiety. This activity entails having people create the different masks they wear.
  • Writing letters: Journaling or writing letters can help clients gain clarity in certain situations. It's also a beneficial tool to help clients express gratitude and find a deeper sense of self-acceptance.
  • Collaging: Particularly helpful in group settings, collages can be a powerful positive visualization tool. Different materials allow clients to relieve stress and create images that best represent core values and future goals.

Additional Trainings

  • American Art Therapy Association: If you want to become an art therapist, this institute provides you with the education and training needed to become licensed.
  • Art4Healing: The Art4Healing Method is designed for therapists facilitating group work. It is not meant to be used in individual therapy. Certification gives therapists advanced knowledge of guided exercises intended to solicit various emotional responses, leaving clients with deeper insight into their mental health.

Dance/Movement Therapy Interventions

Research continues to show the undeniable connection between the mind and body. The body, in particular, holds key information about how we understand emotions. As you know, so much of what the client expresses lies in their nonverbal behavior.

Helping clients gain awareness of their bodily sensations can be a profound part of their treatment process.

  • Identifying body sensations: This intervention encourages clients to label various physical sensations and share how they feel in their bodies when they describe certain situations in the here and now.
  • Using movement to express an idea, thought, or need: Such movement may include encouraging clients to stand up, move around, or use various items to identify how they feel.
  • Using music in session: Music use can be eclectic. You may encourage clients to share specific lyrics or rhythms that relate to their current treatment needs. These interventions can be used in individual sessions, but it tends to be particularly powerful within group settings.

Additional Trainings

Drama/Psychodrama Interventions

Drama-based and psychodramatic therapeutic art activities help clients use self-presentation and role-playing to develop a deeper insight into their lives. This kind of therapy session is active and vulnerable. Many clients find that it helps to "act out" how they feel rather than talk about it.

  • Role-playing: Role-playing is a common therapy exercise used among many clinicians. It works by asking clients to play the role of someone else in their life. This intervention can help with therapy goals related to assertiveness training, boundaries, and building self-esteem. It also helps clients rehearse for difficult interpersonal situations.
  • Storytelling: Storytelling comes in all different shapes and sizes. It encourages clients to artistically tell their stories in a way that feels congruent to their experiences and values.
  • Visual representations/enactments: Such enactments may include encouraging clients to visually express certain needs (i.e. putting all their desires in a pretend box and giving it to someone).
  • Sandtray: Sandtray exercises entail using figurines and small items to represent key themes in a client's life and build a sense of individual empowerment.
  • Family sculpture: Often used in groups or when working with family members, the sculpturing activity encourages an individual to better understand certain dynamics in their lives.

Additional Trainings

Final Thoughts

Traditional talk therapy alone is not effective for every client. All treatment can and should be focused on helping individuals achieve their designated therapy goals. As a clinician, it's essential to be knowledgeable in different interventions to best support your clients' growth.

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