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What Are Creative Therapies?

As further evidence of the amazing mental health benefits of making art, we present the ever-widening field of creative therapies.

Sure, you’ve probably heard of physical therapy, talk therapy, and maybe even primal scream therapy (though you’re dating yourself). But what, pray tell, are creative therapies? 

Let’s take a deep dive.

What Are Creative Therapies?

Creative therapy uses art forms such as visual art, music, dance, or drama to assist in treating certain conditions. And we’re not just talking about mental issues. Creative therapies can also be tremendously helpful for certain physical conditions too.

One of the beautiful things about creative therapy is that no artistic skill or talent is needed whatsoever to reap the benefits. It’s really more of a means for the patient to channel their emotions and thoughts through the artistic process to the therapist. 

In 2018, researchers looked into studies involving creative therapy and how it impacted those trying to manage stress. In 81.1% of the studies, they found that using creative therapies significantly reduced the subject’s stress levels.

It isn’t just stress that creative therapies alleviate though. These therapies are used in treating trauma, chronic illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease, substance abuse issues, head injuries, and physical or developmental disabilities. 

These modalities can also be used to improve self-esteem and self-awareness, boost cognitive and sensorimotor functioning, build emotional strength, provide a distraction from pain or illness, deliver a sense of achievement, provide relaxation, enhance social skills, resolve conflict, and encourage insight into what’s causing this conflict. 

The Thinking Behind These Therapies

Creative therapies come from the same idea that arts-integrated schools do. Just as highly creative people can have difficulty learning through conventional teaching methods, folks who thrive on visually or physically expressing themselves often struggle to get to the crux of their issue through verbal therapy. 

In both cases, applying the arts is a godsend. Students are able to grasp topics more firmly when they learn math, history, and even biology through art. And therapy patients can create or perform a piece of work to discuss with their therapist to open the pathway toward verbalizing it.

Types of Creative Therapies

At the time of this posting, there are four main types of creative therapies. They are visual art (or just art) therapy, music therapy, dance movement therapy, and drama therapy. 

1. Visual Art Therapy

Known more generally as just art therapy, with visual art therapy, the therapist uses tactile art materials to express feelings or an experience. With cues and encouragement from the therapist, the patient may use anything from pens, pencils, and crayons, to photos, video, clay, or digital media. The possibilities are endless. 

The therapist may choose to provide ideas or use prompts to get the patient started. There may even be themes. It’s important that art therapy patients understand that their work is not going to be judged or that the therapist will interpret what it means. (No “paging Dr. Freud” here.)

What the therapist will do is help the patient explore what it means to them and how they felt while making it. It may even be as simple as why the patient chose a specific color or material. From there, the patient and therapist can go deeper and explore. 

2. Music Therapy

As you probably guessed, music therapy is very much like art therapy but it involves exploring music and sound rather than art supplies and materials. Again, patients don’t need to have any understanding of music whatsoever. No need to know how to play an instrument, sing, or read music. 

With music therapy, the patient and therapist may listen to a piece of music and discuss it. Or the patient may make music (possibly more akin to just plain noise) to release feelings or emotions. This music may be created with bells, blocks, drums, cymbals, or whatever is available. Singing may also be in the offering. 

Patients learn there’s no wrong way to do this. It’s all about finding a way to connect to the therapist and others to communicate difficult feelings through music.

3. Dance Movement Therapy

By now you’re probably recognizing a pattern. If so, you probably already guessed that dance movement therapy (also known as dance therapy) is all about using the body as a tool for expression. This can be helpful for those who feel that trauma is stuck in their bodies and want to release it. 

Again, no talent for dance is required. The therapist simply invites the patient to explore movement as a means to get more in touch with their bodies and physical surroundings while exploring difficult experiences in a non-verbal way.

4. Drama Therapy

For those more comfortable on the verbal side but who also have a flair for the dramatic, there’s, well, drama therapy (of course). Because it involves movement, it’s also an appropriate therapy for addressing trauma in the body.

A drama therapy session might involve telling stories, playing games, inventing characters, or even using masks or other props to express or resolve difficult emotions. And all while safely exploring being playful and reinvigorating the imagination. No acting experience is required. Obviously.

We All March to the Beat of Our Own Drummers

Talk therapy doesn’t meet everyone where they are. That’s exactly why creative therapies have evolved.

The same can be said for education. Just as some children do alright with conventional learning, others grasp the material more fully in an arts integration environment.

If your child is the latter, give him/her/them the chance to thrive. Contact us today to take a tour of our school. And prepare for possibility. 


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