Not only does the creative process bring to light thoughts and feelings, it actively engages the healing process. The act of committing to a creative task brings with it powerful opportunities for emotional regulation and mindfulness.
Before engaging with the idea of using creative mediums in therapy, it is important to clarify that incorporating creative techniques does not necessarily equate to performing art, drama or music therapy. These require specific training and qualification. This article rather looks to how creative techniques can be brought into the therapy session, and how this could beneficial to a variety of clients.
WHAT IS MEANT BY CREATIVE MEDIUMS?
When thinking of creative mediums to be used in the therapy space, the list of possible media and their application is exhausted only by the imagination and curiosity of the therapist and client.
Creative mediums may take the shape of more traditional art materials and flow to include practices such as journaling and scrapbooking, photography, graffiti, origami, jewellery design or beading, music and physical movement. The recent craze of intricate colouring-in books has certainly highlighted the idea of incorporating creative activities in mental wellness.
WHY ARE WE INCORPORATING CREATIVE MEDIUMS INTO THERAPY?
The use of creative activities is not new to therapy. It is well known that the creative process allows for artistic self-expression which helps individuals solve conflicts, manage behaviour, improve self-esteem, develop self-awareness, manage stress, and build interpersonal skills.
Where creative therapies are almost always used when working with children, these experiences are seldom brought into the therapy space with adults. Creative therapies offer children an opportunity to express their inner-most thoughts and feelings in a less threatening, and oftentimes, playful manner; it is interesting that we rarely offer this opportunity to our older clients. For the number of clients who experience traditional talk therapy as intense and daunting, the introduction of creative mediums offers a sometimes safer and more comfortable avenue to process their concerns.
All therapists can attest to the difficulties of working with clients who have been “sentenced” to therapy. There against their will, these clients typically maneuver to hold onto control and resist engagement. Whilst introducing creative activities with such clients does not serve to placate or waste time, it can ignite a new experience in the therapy. It may serve as an initial buy in to attend sessions but also promotes a client-therapist relationship that is not entirely problem-centred.
A client’s choice of materials, their process of creation and the thoughts, emotions and memories attached to this process are often more telling than that which the client can express with words. It is well respected that the creative arts elicit sensations and feelings that are buried deep beyond the realms of consciousness.
Not only does the creative process bring to light thoughts and feelings, it actively engages the healing process. The act of committing to a creative task brings with it powerful opportunities for emotional regulation and mindfulness. There’s a reason why countless adults have become enthralled in colouring in squiggly doodles. The process brings the mind to the present and allows for the rest of the world to quieten and slow down.
There is also something to be said about the completion of a creative project and a sense mastery and pride. This forward moving action towards success further feeds a sense of healing and well-being.
HOW TO INTRODUCE CREATIVE MEDIUMS INTO THE THERAPY SPACE?
Like with traditional therapy, the introduction of creative mediums can be very directed and structured, right through to being indirect and unstructured. Clients with initiative and planning difficulties, or anxiety, may require the security of set instructions. With others, the process may flow very naturally.
Always touch sides and remain involved and intrigued in their process. Sometimes seemingly small questions such as, “where did you learn that”, “if this was to be published / publicized, where would you want it to be?”, “who are the big names in this field, and what do you think of them”, can allow for the sharing of personal insight.
Where appropriate reflect upon the process, for example “it looked really frustrating when you couldn’t quite perfect the blue shading”.
There seems little right or wrong when it comes to bringing creativity into therapy. We rather ascertain what would be relevant, engaging, thought-provoking or healing for our clients.
Below are just a few ideas:
· A postcard from where I’d like to be.
· Create your graffiti tag.
· Feeling or memory bracelets (different colour bead assigned to different emotion).
· Client shares a favorite song.
· Visually representation “what the world sees” and “how I truly feel”.
· Depiction of an emotion using different media (pens, crayon, chalk, oil paint, water paint, clay). The process of having to singularly work with the different media to elicit a sensory experience.
· A photo diary of “my week” or “my world”.
· A visual representation of a dream.
· Create a dreamcatcher to help with bad dreams.
· Design your own mandala.
For more ideas check out
“Art washes away from the soul
the dust of everyday life.”
Psych Central Rivonia