4 Creative Ways to Deepen the Therapeutic Process

View of hands writing or drawing. One hand holds coffee mug handle. Crumpled papers are scattered around.When many people think of therapy, they think of talking about problems and working through them with a compassionate therapist. Incorporating creativity into the therapeutic process can be extremely beneficial, however, in helping to attain greater emotional integration and resolution.

Whereas discussing our issues engages the analytical side of the brain and assists us with working through our problems on an intellectual level, adding creativity to the mix can help deepen the process and inspire new solutions to the difficulties we face. This approach can be very useful, especially at times when we feel stuck or as if we just keep going in circles.

The following creative endeavors can enrich the therapeutic process and enable us to more fully work through any unhealed emotional aspects of the issues we are dealing with:

1. Drawing, Painting, or Sculpting

These are all great techniques to use to express what is going on inside of us. When we become creative, we tend to get in touch with our emotional nature and convey our feelings in a more symbolic way.

An effective method to try would be to seek to represent an inner state of being through the artwork, which can be done either through carefully selected imagery or in a more abstract way. Sculpting can be helpful by allowing us to externalize pent-up emotions while molding the clay, as well as forming shapes or figures to symbolize what we are going through. Imagery or sculptures can also be used to represent dreams, which can be further explored in therapy.

2. Making Mandalas

This is another endeavor that can be very helpful and healing. Mandalas are symbolic representations of wholeness and are therefore very useful in reestablishing a sense of unity, especially for individuals who may have experienced trauma.

In Buddhism, mandalas are considered to be sacred objects that spiritual seekers use during meditation in order to help them achieve enlightenment. In the therapy process, creating and/or painting mandalas can be experienced as very healing and restorative. Even if you feel you are not a very creative person, there are a number of mandala coloring books on the market that have recently become popular and that anyone (adults and children) can use for therapeutic purposes.

Whereas discussing our issues engages the analytical side of the brain and assists us with working through our problems on an intellectual level, adding creativity to the mix can help deepen the process and inspire new solutions to the difficulties we face.

3. Writing

This is another effective way to express what we are feeling. For some, this might take the form of writing poetry, which can be a wonderful means of sharing deep feelings with others. Poems can reach down through the years, break through our defenses, and deeply touch our hearts in ways that few other forms of expression can.

If you are not the poetic type, you might want to consider writing a blog to share your feelings with others. If you are more reserved and uninterested in posting for all to see, journaling might be a better option. Journaling can serve to get emotions off one’s chest, especially when going through a difficult time. These written notes can also serve to track emotional states from one day to the next, and can be helpful to share during therapy sessions in order to provide greater insight into one’s issues.

4. Dancing

Dancing and other forms of expressive bodywork can also be extremely useful when working through problems. If movement appeals to you, psychodrama therapy groups may be beneficial, as they can provide more insight and help resolve emotional issues on a deeper level than simply talking about them might do.

Although talk therapy can be extremely beneficial, adding one or more of the creative undertakings and expressive arts above can make the process even deeper and more meaningful. Regardless of whether you are in therapy, adding a creative component to your life can help bring about greater emotional healing, clarity, and resolution.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Teensy

    August 30th, 2016 at 10:25 AM

    Writing has always been such a wonderful outlet for me.
    I can always say exactly what I want to say when I write it down even if this is sometimes a problem if I have to do it face to face.
    It lets me be me, feel free to say what I really mean, and then I have a point where I can decide to share or not share with someone else.

  • wayne

    August 30th, 2016 at 2:12 PM

    Dancing? No.
    I better find another creative outlet.
    No one needs to see that lol

  • Olivia

    August 31st, 2016 at 11:22 AM

    I have noticed the mandala coloring books in a few bookstores recently but have not stopped to pay them much attention. This is definitely going to change the next time that I see them because looking for stress relief is something that I always seem to be doing.

  • barry o

    September 3rd, 2016 at 9:09 AM

    anything out there for those of us who maybe are not so creative?

  • Bennett

    September 6th, 2016 at 2:04 PM

    Poetry is a good way to be creative
    doesn’t necessarily have to have rhyme or rhythm
    just a great little stream of consciousness way to get some of your thoughts and feelings out

  • Mandy

    September 7th, 2016 at 4:09 PM

    For lack of a better word I guess I still keep a diary. It is a great way for me to process the conversation from that day’s session and to also think of some new things that I might want to bring up at the next session. Of course I keep it hidden just like I did when I was younger because those are some pretty deep thoughts in there!

  • Mario Davila

    January 5th, 2018 at 3:50 PM

    Happy to say my 2018 began with my introduction to expressive arts therapy and the discovery of this article. For us, we see everyone as a creative person, some more so than others, and thus we believe that everyone is, present tense, an artist. By developing one’s creativity, and an appreciation for the creativity of others, we become better equipped to shape, and improve, our lives, and the world around us.
    Warmest regards,
    Mario Davila, MA, CNP
    LA’s BEST Director of Arts Ed. (LAsBEST.org)

  • Chris

    May 4th, 2018 at 10:50 AM

    I have a question. I am trying to write out a proposal to allow an artistic therapy class to be formed for a rehab facility. I am actually a client/patient of this facility, and during my struggle to remain sober art for myself has been a great blessing that I would like to share with others within the program. Any ideas on how and where to start with writing out this proposal to the head of operations who seems to have an open mind but still wonders if it’s a great idea for those who battle addiction on a everyday one day at a time basis.

  • Wendy Salazar

    May 4th, 2018 at 9:09 PM

    I would recommend that you share the specific ways that you have benefitted from art therapy yourself and how you think it would be of benefit for others in the program (for example, a way to express feelings, reduce stress, etc.). Good luck with your proposal!

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