Expressive therapies include dance, drama, literature, music, poetry and the visual arts combined with the practice of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is an interactive process between a person and a qualified mental health professional in which the patient explores thoughts, feelings and behavior to help with problem solving. Expressive therapists may use a variety of therapies to engage patients in the resolution of psychological difficulties.
Expressive therapy is a new and emerging field. Lesley University created the nation's first academic expressive therapy department in 1974, and just recently graduated its first doctoral expressive therapy class. Expressive therapists use multiple art modalities along with psychotherapy in their clinical practice, but often focus on a specific modality. The field of expressive therapy recognizes the importance of the arts and creative expression in the process of healing. This type of therapy is commonly used to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, and grieving, among a variety of other disease states.
Art therapy: Art therapy became established as a mental health profession in the 1930s and, like the other forms of expressive therapy, is now practiced in hospitals, clinics, public and community agencies, wellness centers, educational institutions, businesses and private practices. It involves the application of a variety of art modalities including drawing, painting, clay and sculpture. It is believed that these methods of art may help people deal with inner conflicts, such that they become more aware of the "inner self."
Dance/movement therapy: This category of expressive therapy includes martial arts as well as many types of dance. It aims to help people release pent up emotions and gain inner peace. It may be particularly useful in gaining a sense of peace with one's body after being subject to some type of abuse. This type of therapy became distinct in the 1940s, and is known as a psychotherapeutic use of movement. There are currently dance/movement therapists in 43 United States territories and in 21 countries.
Drama therapy: Drama therapy is the intentional use of drama and/or theater processes to achieve therapeutic goals. It is an active therapy, which is based on experience. It can provide an alternative context for a patient to relate his or her inner struggles and feelings. It can actively explore inner experience and strengthen interpersonal relationship skills.
Music therapy: Music was recognized as a tool of healing in the ancient writings of writings of Pythagoras, Aristotle and Plato. In more modern times, music therapy became recognized in the early 20th Century, when local musicians played for those suffering from the traumas of war at Veterans' hospitals across America.
Poetry therapy: Creative writing was instituted as a treatment modality in the United States over 200 years ago in a Pennsylvania hospital. It is currently used to treat a vast array of conditions among many different populations. It may be used as primary therapy or ancillary therapy.
Psychotherapy: The generally acknowledged father of modern psychotherapy was Sigmund Freud, a neurologist in 1880s Vienna, Austria, who noted that some of his patients did not seem to have a physical cause for their symptoms. Freud primarily used dream interpretation, free association, and the three levels of consciousness: the id (primitive drives and impulses), the ego (normal waking mental functioning) and the superego (conscience, self-regulation of right and wrong) in his practice.
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