Expressive Arts Therapy….What’s That?

Sushi Frausto, M.A., Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the Institute’s Child and Adolescent Specialty Practice (LMFT #101031)

How much time does your child spend in imaginative, creative expression?  Given the current focus on screen time and structured activities, children’s engagement in imaginative, creative expression is on the decline.  Not a good thing – for all kinds of reasons.

What is Expressive Arts Therapy?

It’s a multimodal approach to personal growth that combines art, music, drama, dance/movement, poetry/creative writing, bibliotherapy, play, and sand play within the context of psychotherapy.

The arts enhance psychotherapy in numerous ways.  Engaging multiple areas of our brain simultaneously leads to a more comprehensive experience.   By allowing a bit of personal distance, the arts help us feel less vulnerable.

How do expressive arts help children grow and communicate? 

Through the arts, we use nonverbal and symbolic communication. This can be especially comforting to children, who often have a hard time speaking directly about challenges or who lack the language to describe difficult experiences.  It always delights me when a child, who may not be able to effectively verbalize feelings, uses creative expression to convey meaning so well. The arts broaden our ability to transmit ideas.

How can you engage more fully with your children around their art?  

Parents have many opportunities to encourage personal growth through the arts.  Connecting with your child around methods of self-expression can lead to very fruitful conversations. The next time your child makes something and shares it with you, try asking an open-ended question.

Rather than, “That looks great!” try, “Tell me more about what you drew.”

Or ask, “Hmm…can you tell me about this character?”

And if your child’s art really surprises you, you can always ask, “What were you thinking about when you were working on this?”

Children naturally live in their creative brains.  They love telling you about their creations and their artistic processes. By utilizing this comfort zone, therapists AND parents can aid the process of self-growth.

How can you learn more?

I’ll be hosting a free discussion on the use of expressive arts to foster personal growth at the Institute on Tuesday, September 11 from 6:30-8:00pm.

Join us to learn more about the benefits of Expressive Arts, how children benefit from working with Expressive Arts therapeutically and to learn more about effectively communicating with your children about the art they’re making.  I hope to see you there!

Click here for full details on the talk.

Check out Creative Connections – a fun, therapeutic arts group for middle school girls!

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