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Do you ever feel like you are acting out a script in your life? Are your feelings better expressed through music or art? Do stressful situations provide you with insight? If so, the creative therapies may be for you!

Healing Through Expression

Your cousin Rick is a country-western singer.

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His wife left him recently, and he refuses to discuss it with anyone. You are starting to worry because he seems miserable. Then, he calls you up out of the blue and asks you to come to a bar where he’s singing Friday night. He wants you to hear a new song that he’s written.You go to the bar Friday night to hear him sing.

His new song is this depressing ballad about a guy who wrecked his truck, and then his dog ran away. Even though you aren’t sure you understand how it relates, he tells you the song expresses what he’s feeling about his marriage falling apart. Rick looks happier than he has in a long time.

Rick may not know it, but what he just experienced is very similar to the idea behind a group of therapies know as creative therapies. Creative therapies are sometimes also called ‘expressive therapies’ because they offer an approach to psychological counseling that involves the use of alternative forms of expression.This lesson will discuss three common types of creative therapy: creative arts therapy, narrative therapy, and adventure-based therapy.

Creative Arts Therapy

Creative arts therapy involves increasing awareness through participating in creative arts under the guidance of a qualified therapist.

Creative arts therapy can involve working with any art form. Examples would be music, visual art, or dance.As the therapist guides the focus of their work, the client should become increasingly expressive and better able to communicate. This will in turn increase the client’s awareness of the issues that are causing difficulty in their lives.

The increased level of awareness will trigger a desire for change.One good example of creative arts therapy in action involves working with children who experience trauma. The child may not possess the vocabulary to describe events or feelings but can be asked to draw pictures and talk about them. By doing this, the child becomes able to express content and emotions that would otherwise remain hidden.Imagine a creative arts therapist suspects that the child has witnessed abuse in their home.

The child is asked to draw pictures of a family. In the pictures that are drawn, the mother often appears sad. The father often appears angry and is sometimes drawn hitting the mother. Describing these pictures helps the child talk about what he has seen happening within his family in a non-threatening way.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy involves focusing on how a person’s life is scripted and how themes from this script affect how they view their life. This life script is a story that emerges as events in a person’s life are selected as being important and are used to shape one’s perspective on their life.

Typically, a person’s life script is dominated by problems by the time a person comes to therapy. For example, a narrative therapist will often hear clients describe how they have always been a depressed person or have been labeled as a criminal after a brush with the law. This can have a powerful negative influence on the way a person views themselves and their capabilities.A narrative therapist will help the client discover parts of their life that do not fit with their negative life script, eventually rediscovering hidden potential. The focus is not on solving the client’s problems but on discovering the possibilities that were ignored in their life script. The client can then begin writing, and acting out, a new life script.Think of the life script as being like the lens of a camera.

Like a camera lens is adjusted to bring an area of the picture into focus, our life script brings different areas of our experiences into focus. Narrative therapy helps refocus the lens.

Adventure-Based Therapy

Adventure therapy involves using active, physical experiences as a therapeutic tool. Adventure therapy is most often practiced with groups and consists of activities such as cooperative group games, a ropes course, or a wilderness expedition.

During adventure therapy, the client will face some type of real or perceived risk that will help them learn more about themselves and their reactions to stress. The role of the adventure therapist is to observe clients and help them process what they are learning during the process.Another typical characteristic of adventure therapy involves being presented with a task that must be completed. Clients are given the opportunity to work on behavior patterns, practice rules of social interaction, and develop communication skills while working to accomplish the necessary task.

Increased self-esteem is often a result of these interventions.Imagine a retreat for victims of domestic abuse. An adventure therapy activity takes place at the retreat.

The victims are asked to complete a ropes course where they can only be successful if they trust each other and work together. During the process, one client discovers how her difficulty with trusting others is preventing them from accomplishing the goal. At the end of the activity, the therapist asks her to discuss how her lack of trust might be affecting her life in other ways.

Lesson Summary

Creative therapies offer an approach to psychological counseling that involves the use of alternative forms of expression. Three common types of creative therapy are creative arts therapy, narrative therapy, and adventure-based therapy.Creative arts therapy involves increasing awareness through participating in creative arts under the guidance of a qualified therapist. Music, visual arts, dance, or any other art form could be used.

Narrative therapy involves focusing on how a person’s life is scripted and how themes from this script affect how they view their life. This life script is a story that emerges as events in a person’s life are selected as being important and are used to shape one’s perspective on their life.Adventure therapy involves using active, physical experiences as a therapeutic tool and consists of activities such as cooperative group games, a ropes course, or a wilderness expedition.

Learning Outcomes

As you finish watching the video, your aim should be to:

  • Recognize how expression can be used as a therapeutic tool
  • Explain creative arts therapy, narrative therapy, and adventure-based therapy
  • Consider how the therapies mentioned can be used to help patients

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