The Art of Healing: Incorporating Expressive Therapies into Healthcare

Modern healthcare has seen numerous evolutions, with one of them being the inclusion of expressive therapies into conventional treatment strategies. Expressive therapies, such as music therapy, art therapy, drama therapy, […]


Modern healthcare has seen numerous evolutions, with one of them being the inclusion of expressive therapies into conventional treatment strategies. Expressive therapies, such as music therapy, art therapy, drama therapy, and dance/movement therapy, offer an integrative approach to patient care.

Expressive therapies create a medium through which one can explore emotions, reconcile emotional conflicts, and foster self-awareness. By incorporating the creative process as part of the therapy, individuals can express their thoughts and sentiments in a safe and non-confrontational way.

New Paradigm

Existing healthcare paradigms are now shifting towards a balanced, individual-oriented approach, incorporating expressive therapies into a patient’s treatment plan. From depression, anxiety, trauma to physical health conditions such as cancer and heart disease, expressive therapies offer a different perspective to conventional methods.

The efficacy of expressive therapies lies in their capacity to impact and stimulate different aspects of our psyche. They appeal to our senses, feelings, and thoughts, enabling us to verbalize or visually represent our internal conflicts, suppressed emotions, and unexpressed feelings.

Existing studies validate this approach, with research suggesting that art therapy can significantly reduce a broad spectrum of Trauma Score subscales and psychopathological complications linked to trauma.

What Are Expressive Therapies

Communication through creative self-expression, often considered the cornerstone of expressive therapies, differs significantly from traditional verbal psychotherapy methods. Expressive arts therapy does not exclusively rely on talking about a patient’s experiences; instead, it encourages patients to delve deeper into their emotions through non-verbal communication, fostering both insight and transformation.

To incorporate expressive therapies into the practice effectively, clinicians need to understand each modality’s benefits and its potential for healing. For instance, drama therapy, with its focus on role-play and enactment, can facilitate emotional release and behavior change, while movement therapy tends to center around body awareness and emotions.

Engaging in creative tasks can help patients to self-express, reevaluate their problems, visualize goals, deal with stressors, and divert their attention from pain. Painting, drawing, sculpting or simply doodling can elicit feelings of comfort, control, mastery, and resilience.

Additionally, music therapy can reduce pain perceptions, alleviate anxiety, and improve quality of life. The therapeutic impact of such therapies can be profound and provide a sense of empowerment to the patient, enabling them to take an active role in their healing process.

Incorporating Into Your Practice

Given the enormous potential of these therapies, it is crucial to integrate them into healthcare strategically. A competent healthcare organization should consider training in expressive therapies, sensitization of staff, and provision of necessary facilities to adequately integrate these therapies.

Providing training to healthcare staff can equip them with the necessary skills, encouraging them to use a variety of therapies in their practice. Sensitization of staff towards the benefits and potential of these therapies can help them understand the value of these therapies and encourage their use.

In conclusion, the advent of expressive therapies in healthcare is a significant step towards holistic healing. It acknowledges the intricate interplay between mind, body, and spirit and shifts the focus from disease treatment to wellness promotion.

Every individual perceives and interacts with the world uniquely, and healthcare delivery should reflect this uniqueness. The inclusion of expressive therapies demonstrates that medical and mental health clinicians are moving towards an approach where treatment is not merely symptom-focused. Highly individualized expressive therapies make the person the priority, not solely the disease.

Actionable Steps

1. Understand the principles and types of expressive therapies and their role in patient care.
2. Identify patients who might benefit from these therapies, after considering their psychological and physical state, as well as their preference.
3. Integrate expressive therapies into treatment plans of patients where appropriate.
4. Engage in continuous learning and engage in research to understand the evolving dynamics of these therapies.
5. Foster an environment that respects and values the benefits of these therapies, further encouraging their use in the healthcare setting.
6. Encourage patients to participate actively in their treatment using these therapies providing continuous support and encouragement.

By incorporating expressive therapies into healthcare, we not only embrace a multi-dimensional approach to healing but also celebrate the essence of being human – our ability to create, express and evolve.

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

Written by AI & Reviewed by Clinical Psychologist: Yoendry Torres, Psy.D.

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