Expressive Arts ~ Art Therapy

Carl Jung had a nervous breakdown when he was 37. In response, he spent days on the shoreline of his Swiss lakeside home ~ just stacking rocks.

Art therapists and Expressive arts facilitators implement the psychological concepts of Carl Jung in their work.  The ideology is that creative expression is a way to heal the psyche – the inner self.

The act of making and creating art is a calming, focused and meditative process.  But in a different application, Expressive Art allows suppressed emotions to be released.  Blocked feelings that are unable to be verbally expressed come out in different ways via: Dance, Sound, Sculpture, Drawing, Poetry and Paint.

Changing gears in Expressive Arts is refered to as – switching modalities.  When a person is intent on working on an issue, a problem or a blockage – they express it in as many ways and means possible.

Example: In processing grief.  A person may write a few key words on a page to express how they are currently feeling.  They may paint a scene, draw an image, or simply use smears of colour to convey whats inside of them.  Next, they may create a sand tray sculpture building a diorama to view it from above (gaining a different & objective perspective).  When that method of art making is done, but there is still more grief to express, they will switch to a different art form like sound: slowly drumming out sadness which may get louder and stronger then return softly back into drumming their loss… The next modality used may be expressive dance to allow the body to demonstrate how it feels, then finally close the expressive arts experience with spoken or written key words to express how they are now feeling, after experiencing the release.

In the process there is a beginning – a middle – and an end.

Closure is very important.  It allows the psyche to understand when the deeply emotive phase is over, complete and done.

It is like releasing water from a dam that is about to break, then closing off the dam again when the pressure has been released.   Another analogy of the process would be:

  • Opening a door to a locked room in the basement of the mind.
  • Letting out the stale air.
  • Opening and cleaning the windows to let in the light.
  • Surveying whats in the room.
  • Getting rid of things (unhealthy and/or toxic thoughts, behaviours & feelings).
  • Sweeping and mopping the floors.
  • Closing the door when the clearing out & cleaning is done.

 I am not a psychologist, I am an artist – but I know that Personal Development and Self Improvement is vital to our growth and progress in life.  I have participated in group Expressive Arts experiences and have personally witnessed individual breakthroughs, little victories, inner realizations, release and relief.  A connection to nature is also healing – whether it is sitting in a forest, building a mandala made from natural objects or, stacking rocks.

The premise is simple.

Know thyself ~ Heal thyself






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