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Expressive therapy or creative therapy or creative arts therapies are the use of the creative arts as a form of therapy. Unlike traditional art expression, the process of creation is emphasized rather than the final product. Expressive therapy is predicated on the assumption that people can heal through use of imagination and the various forms of creative expression.

Expressive therapy serves as an umbrella term including expressive arts therapy[1] as well as the creative arts therapy modalities (art therapy, dance/movement therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, poetry therapy, and psychodrama)[2].



All expressive therapists share the belief that through creative expression and the tapping of the imagination, a person can examine the body, feelings, emotions and his or her thought process.

Horticultural therapy is often not listed with other expressive therapies; it is not universally considered a form of expressive therapy or creative arts therapy.[3][medical citation needed]

Expressive arts therapyEdit

Expressive arts therapy is the practice of using imagery, storytelling, dance, music, drama, poetry, movement, horticulture, dreamwork, and visual arts together, in an integrated way, to foster human growth, development, and healing. It is about reclaiming our innate capacity as human beings for creative expression of our individual and collective human experience in artistic form. Expressive arts therapy is also about experiencing the natural capacity of creative expression and creative community for healing.[4] Expressive arts therapy is its own distinct therapeutic discipline, an inter-modal discipline where the therapist and client move freely between drawing, dancing, music, drama, and poetry.[5]

The International Association of Expressive Arts Therapy is the responsible organization handling the credentialing of expressive arts therapists[6].

Creative arts therapiesEdit

Creative arts therapists share the feature of encouraging creative expression through a specific art form within a psychotherapeutic relationship. However, each modality possesses a distinct definition, a legally defensible scope of practice, educational competencies and evidence-based research and therefore stands alone as distinct[7]. There are 6 creative arts therapy modalities, recognized by the National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations (NCCATA)[8].

Art therapyEdit

"Art Therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities throughactive art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship."(AATA, 2017)[9]

Dance/movement therapyEdit

"Dance/movement therapy [is] the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration of the individual. [It is] focused on movement behavior as it emerges in the therapeutic relationship.  ... Body movement, as the core component of dance, simultaneously provides the means of assessment and the mode of intervention for dance/movement therapy." (ADTA, 2016)[10]

Drama therapyEdit

"Drama therapy is the intentional use of drama and/or theater processes to achieve therapeutic goals." (NADTA, 2018)[11]

Music therapyEdit

"Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. ... Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, clients' abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives." (AMTA, 2018)[12]

Poetry therapyEdit

"Poetry therapy is a holistic approach that respects the various links of wellness, with its attentiveness to body, mind and spirit. [It] actively engages people to identify issues and express feelings ... to transform life issues through the use of the language arts." (NAPT, 2004)[13]


"Psychodrama employs guided dramatic action to examine problems or issues raised by an individual (psychodrama) or a group (sociodrama). ... It clarifies issues, increases physical and emotional well being, enhances learning and develops new skills." (ASGPP)[14]

Expressive Therapy in the MediaEdit

The documentary I Remember Better When I Paint is an international film which documents the positive impact of art and other creative activities on people with Alzheimer's disease. The film demonstrates how expressive therapies bypass limitations.[15][16]

Films are available from organizations such as Expressive Media Inc., which depict pioneers in the expressive therapies from around the world as they conduct therapy sessions. These films and videos are distributed for training purposes to mental health professionals.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "FAQ". About US | IEATA. Retrieved 2018-08-17. 
  2. ^ "NCCATA - The National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations" (PDF). NCCATA. 2017. 
  3. ^ Americans for the Arts. (2013). National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military: Arts, health and well-being across the military continuum. White paper and framing a national plan for action. Retrieved from October 10, 2013.
  4. ^ Appalachian Expressive Arts Collective, 2003, Expressive Arts Therapy: Creative Process in Art and Life. Boone, NC: Parkway Publishers. p. 3.
  5. ^ Malchiodi, Cathy A. (2003). Expressive Therapies. New York: Guilford ISBN 1-59385-379-3. 
  6. ^ "REAT Registered Expressive Arts Therapist". About US | IEATA. Retrieved 2018-08-17. 
  7. ^ "Arts, health and well-being in America" (PDF). National Organization of Arts in Health (NOAH). 2017. 
  8. ^ "NCCATA | About NCCATA". NCCATA. Retrieved 2018-08-17. 
  9. ^ "Definition of Art Therapy" (PDF). American Art Therapy Association (AATA). 2017. 
  10. ^ "Definition of dance/movement therapy by the ADTA". ADTA. Retrieved 2018-08-17. 
  11. ^ "What is Drama Therapy". Retrieved 2018-08-17. 
  12. ^ "Definition and Quotes about Music Therapy | Definition and Quotes about Music Therapy | American Music Therapy Association (AMTA)". Retrieved 2018-08-17. 
  13. ^ "Integrative Medicine Packet" (PDF). National Association of Poetry Therapy (NAPT). 2004. 
  14. ^ "What is psychodrama" (PDF). American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama (ASGPP). 
  15. ^ "New York University Literature, Arts and Medicine database". 7 July 2010. 
  16. ^ A Time to Dance: The Life Work of Norma Canner (1998) 75 min, Documentary, Biography by Directors Ian Browned, Webb Wilcoxen

External linksEdit