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What is creative arts therapy?

Creative arts therapy is an exciting, imaginative and valuable psychological treatment option, which allows a person to experience and express themselves through the arts, while supported by a professional therapist.

In today’s guide about creative arts therapy, you’ll learn:

· Why creative arts are important

· How you could benefit from creative arts therapy and

· What a creative arts therapy session might look like.

Why creative arts are important

Even though many people are unfamiliar with creative arts therapy as a discipline, almost all humans recognise the therapeutic benefits of music, art, dancing and storytelling.

For example, consider how good it feels when you hear your favourite song, how looking at a beautiful painting draws you into another world and how someone else’s writing can capture a feeling you just can’t express in your own words.

The Arts – no matter whether you choose to create it yourself or simply observe and enjoy it – is a relaxing and inspiring activity for many people. However, the benefits of creative engagement go much further than relaxation and enjoyment, the arts also play an important role helping us. McNiff (2005) explains how “it is the creative imagination that can find its way through our most perplexing and complex problems and conflicts”.

Working with a qualified arts therapist, has the advantage of having a professional psychotherapist who can tailor and harness the powerful effects of the arts, in helping you make sense of your own problems, conflicts and needs.

Now that we have established the importance of art in our lives, we can look at the benefits of creative arts therapy.

How do I benefit from creative arts therapy?

The process in creative arts therapy is designed to

· contribute to a sense of clarity, leading to greater self-awareness and understanding

· allow and support emotional expression

· facilitate self-discovery and self-improvement

· manage conflict

· process experiences

· discover choices you truly want to make

These benefits are helpful when going through difficult life events, dealing with mental health issues and when facing or going through life transitions or decisions. Even if you’re not facing a specific issue in your life, some people seek the supportive environment of creative arts therapy for self-discovery and self-improvement. It might be helpful to also note that creative arts therapy can be particularly helpful for individuals who fell stuck and really struggle to articulate their feelings or experiences.

A common misconception around creative arts therapy, is that you need some form of artistic talent or skill to be able to benefit from it – this is completely untrue! Creative arts therapy is for everyone and you don’t need any skill or talent to benefit from the process.

What a creative arts therapy session might look like

Now that you are more familiar with the importance and possible benefits of creative arts therapy, you may wonder what a typical session would look like. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a typical session. Each and every meeting with your therapist is sensitively curated according to your unique mood, needs, and personal goals.

Therapeutic activities that you may encounter are (amongst many others):

· Music listening

· Creative writing

· Deep breathing

· Drawing or clay work

· Guided imagery and music (GIM)* experience

· Lyric discussion

· Story-telling and

· Exploration of dreams and symbols

Final thoughts

Art gives us meaning and helps us understand our world. When we engage with the arts, it helps us to elevate our mood, improve our ability to problem solve, and open our minds to new ideas. Embarking on a journey in creative arts therapy allows us not only to connect to our own insights, but also to others’.

“The power of art is that it can connect us to one another, and to larger truths about what it means to be alive and what it means to be human. ”Daniel Levitin author of “This is Your Brain on Music”

Anja Pollard

Creative Arts Therapist

Psych Central Pretoria

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