For people with mental disorders, knowing that there is no cure can be discouraging and limiting. Nevertheless, there are a plethora of options when it comes to treatment. Through most people lean towards the more traditional options such as talk therapy and medication, there are other supplemental options. Some of these options focus on mind body connection, the power of creativity and the importance of presence.
Two of the most prominent options are Art Therapy and Expressive Arts therapy. The difference between the two lies in the use of artistic mediums and their therapeutic focus. Within the realm of expressive arts, the client finds space to explore the different facets if themselves. This includes constructing and deconstruction identity as well as specific problems. The therapist helps the client in finding comfort and expression through creation while accompanying the client on their personal journey. The therapist does not stop, instruct or redirect the client. The therapist welcomes all of the client’s turmoil in a non-judgmental atmosphere.
Within an expressive arts therapy session the client can range from creating music, acting and/or creating visual art. An example of the work we do as expressive artists is depicted by Douglass Mitchel in his article The Benefits of Mask Making in a Journey toward Wholeness.
Mitchel explains the importance of mask making a way to create a therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist. He focuses on the symbolism of the end result, of the mask, and what it represents and what does it say without using words. He further talks about the process of mask making as a full body experience that helps to awaken the somatic memories the client may have stored away.
Mitchel, in his article, offers the importance of mask making and its rich history. Thus emphasizing that the work we do as expressive artists is not simply making art but building tradition, making meaning and creating creative space for others to explore.