Firstly, art reinforces the importance of relaxation prior to beginning any verbal processing or art related activity. Overall, the arts enable a defined purpose and a theme or several that surface through what has been created, so that a client can work with it, move with their themes, draw their themes, write them out, and continually use their artform to make sense of their story. This helps youth to better connect with the parts of themselves that traditional counselling approaches may not readily offer. Engagement in this process allows youth to explore their deepest and often hidden feelings, to use symbols to represent their inner feelings and conflicts, and to physically express their internal issues. Youth become more invested and more motivated to change parts of their life and become more empowered towards personal growth and change as you will become more energized through your own process with them. (Integrating the Expressive Arts into Counseling Practice; 2nd Edition; Degges-White, Davis). The future of counselling and healing in the 21st century is the integration of the mind and body. A common concept many youths I've worked with share is the following: "I just put on a mask all the time to cover up how I really feel". Through art, the goal is to support the untying of these masks and continue to understand our roles as providers more deeply in order to break down layers and see the different parts of who they are.
When we offer choice, a capacity for sharing, connectivity to themes, and predictable patterns that align to promote our creativity we can begin to heal the systems that have traumatised our bodies. Healing takes place when there are many therapeutic moments each day with a person that can assist in the control and reworking of traumatic experiences, relieve symptoms, and set the stage for multilayered self-discovery experiences for clients. Art allows one to create those pathways for themselves where they also control, predictability and flexibility to exercise the imagination and retrain the creative muscle to create a new story for themselves and with another.
The expressive arts perpetuate the notion that we can expand our worldview and create more clarity like a physical object that allows you to change its shape. It is possible to use various mediums as a metaphor to create something new just if you were to think about trauma and the moving through it that helps to restore the self. Like an object that can be reformed, we can also use art to reshape and retrain the brain to perceive events differently, and to feel less sensitised to threat or over reactivity in the body. Building relational and personal resilience involves listening to their stories thoroughly before starting the creative project. An art modality is shared that is best suited to their interests and needs in the process.
The role of art in expressive arts therapy is one of the pillars of traditional healing which is connection to the natural world and the use of regulation through rhythm whether that be through dance movement music lyric writing or song and the underlying element of all of these modalities or approaches to healing is: storytelling, which brings meaning to the past and bridges the gap between what was done to us, how it hurt or helped us in a moment of need.
A simple art piece can tell us so much about a person's thoughts and feelings, but also a large component of their life in relationships with themselves, their families, and others.