As I was finishing high school, I had a strong desire to pursue a career in acting. When I told my parents about this interest, they were very clear that in order for them to help me financially in college, they would not support me pursuing a career in professional theatre. With that in mind, I quickly decided to do some soul searching. After prayer and thought, I was drawn to the conclusion that I wanted to work with children and families. How was I to do that?
With additional research and support from my undergraduate program, I was led to play therapy. I would define play therapy as using various toys, objects, and imaginative play to explore and address therapeutic issues. Because of that motivation, I was able to pursue and complete my college degree in Psychology with a minor in Theatre and Biblical Studies.
As I was completing my first degree, I did continued research on places where I could get a degree in play therapy. Since this was the early 2000s, the best place for me to do the research was online. After sifting through many, many websites, I came across a program that had a program in expressive therapy.
Expressive therapy, what’s that?
Expressive therapy is the use of the creative arts in a therapeutic context for the purposes of clinical treatment. In this program, I found a way to reconcile my love of the arts while helping people. This field surprised and spellbound me as I learned that I could use visual art, music, creative writing, acting, dancing, and anything expressive to help people address emotional and mental health needs.
Just like the average person who uses music to “work out their demons” or art to “get their message out there,” I believe the power of creativity can help people pursue recovery and personal growth. Although many people use creativity in their own lives without therapists, I would encourage readers to consider meeting with someone who has a license in this field. In addition to necessary credentialing to be a licensed counselor, consider working with a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist (REAT), a Board Certified Arts Therapist (ATR-BC), a Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC), or a Registered Dance Therapist (R-DMT).
Expressive therapy is the use of the creative arts in a therapeutic context for the purposes of clinical treatment. In this program, I found a way to reconcile my love of the arts while helping people.
In my years of being in the field, I have greatly valued the role of a talk-therapist –-someone who uses conversation and insight oriented discussion to work through therapeutic issues. Additionally, I have also valued the power of an art therapist giving me art supplies to explore and express myself. I have even have the privilege of using expressive therapy to help clients in a group setting explore social skills using musical play, develop healthy boundaries and support through puppet making and performing, and sobriety management through art therapy directives.
Just like the average person who uses music to “work out their demons” or art to “get their message out there,” I believe the power of creativity can help people pursue recovery and personal growth.
For Further Info
A book I highly recommend reading if you want to know more about expressive therapies by modality is “Expressive Therapies” by Cathy Malchiodi (http://www.guilford.com/books/Expressive-Therapies/Cathy-Malchiodi/9781593853792/editor).
If you want to learn more about expressive therapy specifically, a book that helped me in my professional development is “The Creative Connection” by Natalie Rogers (https://www.amazon.com/Creative-Connection-Expressive-Arts-Healing/dp/0831400803) who is the daughter of Carl Rogers, founder of the humanistic approach to psychology.
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