Expressive art therapy is a way for individuals to work with their counselors in various modalities like painting, drawing, psychodrama, dance, music, or other methods of self-expression to discover insight and meaning into themselves which may not be accessible in traditional talk therapy. There is research to support how effective and enriching this process can be in a therapeutic setting, however, there are ways to achieve some similar benefits in a self help approach.
What is Expressive Art Therapy?
Expressive art therapy is not like traditional art expression, but rather a method of focusing on the process of creating the work to help the individual examine the body, feelings, emotions, or ways of thinking. It centers on the focus that healing can come from the use of imagination and expression. From an official therapeutic standpoint the benefits of expressive art therapy encourages letting go to have the unconscious unfold, it enhances communication between the counselor and client, it can externalize the process to help the clients feel in control of their process, creates a spark in imagination to provide insight, and supports integrative learning. This methodology is appropriate for all ages and can utilize a multitude of mediums.
How Can I Use Expressive Art Therapy in a Self Help Way?
A self help form of expressive art therapy can be achieved through the use of hobbies. Many people already have hobbies that they enjoy. Hobbies, like listening to music, drawing, sewing, playing recreational sports, or gardening, can be very therapeutic just engaging in something enjoyable. Hobbies assist to relieve stress. They provide creative outlets to facilitate self-expression in positive ways.
One way to utilize your hobbies in a therapeutic self help way is to be mindful of your body, thoughts and feelings while participating in your favorite activity. Just for a moment or two, notice how your body feels. Are you relaxed? Excited? Focused? Notice your thoughts. Can you concentrate? Are you absorbed in your activity? Notice your feelings or emotions. Are you joyful? Happy? Does the activity allow you to escape all the other stressors from your life? Chances are you will have positive responses. Most of us are not aware when exactly we set aside all the stress and strain from our thoughts and bodies when we begin to enjoy ourselves. Generally, we notice at the end, how refreshed we feel. Next time you are engaged in your hobby activity, be mindful.
Another way to practice hobbies with a self help approach is to allow complete freedom of creativity. Try to totally let yourself go in whatever your activity. If you cook, create a new dish. If you draw, just let your feelings come out in an abstract way. If you dance, just move to the music from your heart. At times, it is very freeing and insightful to not follow the pattern, recipe, rules, or choreography. Be aware of how the process works for you. Does it excite you? Make you nervous? Does it invoke fear? Does it invigorate? Discovering how that creativity flows can be empowering or frightening. Either way, you may have gained some powerful knowledge about yourself.
Also, you can take an integrative approach. Perhaps you can combine your interests in different ways. For example, if you like photography, you may enjoy learning how to scrapbook or how to perform custom framing for creative ways to display your art. Maybe you enjoy baking, so you could take a cake decorating class. The idea is to enhance your hobbies by learning some new and creative ways to enjoy it with others, enhance your current skill set, combine multiple interests, or continue to learn more about yourself.
Finally is participation. Just like with expressive art therapy, you have to set some time in your schedule to actually do it. Similar to scheduling a weekly session with a therapist, you can strive to set aside an hour a week to enjoy your favorite past-time. After all, a counselor and a hobby are only as assistive for you if you participate. No matter how much your hobby can decrease stress, increase creativity, or enhance mood, it will not help a bit if you do not engage in that activity.
To Sum It Up...
In conclusion, while hobbies as a self help method of expressive art therapy may not help to provide insight into the deep psyche of oneself, it does provide a multitude of therapeutic benefits. It can allow you to be mindful of the benefits of participation. You can add to your knowledge base of your hobby by joining groups or combining different approaches to that hobby. And be sure to make time in your schedule for your hobbies. So, if you do not have a hobby currently, consider learning something new and creative for a healthier you.