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What is Creative Therapy?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Creative therapy should really be called creative therapies because there are numerous forms of therapy aimed at processing negative emotion or inspiring behavioral and mental change or healing through expression. Sometimes all of these therapies may be lumped together under the title expressive therapies too. Some therapists minimally practice a few forms of creative therapy, and others have trained specifically to work with one form of therapy in a variety of settings.

A number of forms of creative therapy exist, including:

  • Art therapy, which might focus on the making of things (drawings, paintings, sculptures) as a means of bringing forth unconscious stressors and creating greater understanding.
  • Music therapy can be used to work with patients with physical or emotion illness.
  • Developmental interactive bibiliotherapy (sometimes called poetry therapy) may use discussion of literature and writing as a therapeutic tool.
  • Drama therapy could involve improvisation, making costumes, working with masks or working with puppets.
  • Dance therapy could work with dance as expression of self.
  • Psychodrama might dramatize near true to life experiences in the hopes of understanding group function and self.
  • Writing therapy incorporates the idea of writing about the self in order to promote better understanding.

The different types of creative therapy and the different ways expressive therapeutic care can be applied make it hard to simply gather it all together under one umbrella. Essentially, it can be said that anyone practicing a creative therapy sees value in ways of expression that are not simply talking, to provide healing or rehabilitation, and as a method for promoting greater self-awareness in the client. Many times these forms of therapy work for people who have minimal communication skills. This includes children who are not ideally suited to talking therapy, but it can also include those with lower than normal IQs or actual speaking impairment.

It would be a mistake to assume that a creative therapy never involves talking though, and some therapists, especially from more traditional schools may have a mix of creative therapies they use combined with talking. They might work on art with a child client and then spend a few moments talking about the art the child worked on, or make comments on the art as it’s being produced. A conversation can still exist in creative therapies, and may prove helpful in teaching people how to analyze themselves, through their creations.

It is equally erroneous though to assume that all creative therapies are for people with mental illness or who have encountered emotional trauma. Many times certain forms of these therapies are used in group settings, and especially in places like convalescent homes, homes for the mentally challenged or mental hospitals. In mental hospitals, they may be adjunct to other more traditional talking therapy forms, but in a convalescent home, the art group patients attend could be their principal therapeutic investment.

In sum, it would be fair to state that creative therapists posit a view that wellness and healing can be found in the act of creation. Art of any sort perhaps wells from that deeper place where emotional turmoil, trauma and concerns about the self exist. A trained therapist may facilitate this passage to the light by honoring the process of creation. Moreover, there may be as much to be learned by creating as there is by talking.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By lluviaporos — On Dec 21, 2013

@clintflint - Honestly, I think even doing a drama or art or music class for adults can serve as therapy, as long as you have a particular focus in mind that is appropriate for the class.

I did a drama class a short while ago and I was really blown away by how freeing it was to play and laugh like that with strangers. We had a ball and even though it wasn't therapy specific, it had basically the same effect.

By clintflint — On Dec 21, 2013

@MrsPramm - I've found it surprising how creative art therapy can really help to process some things. I thought it was a bit of a silly idea at first, because I really can't draw and I didn't see how putting something into a different context like that would make any difference.

But it really did bring up a few things that I hadn't considered before. I'm really glad my counselor suggested it. It's too bad I don't think she'd go for drama therapy!

By MrsPramm — On Dec 20, 2013

Drama therapy can actually be quite amazing in the way it gets people to open up. There's something about being able to pretend to be someone else that allows people to let go of their stress and to see their own problems from another angle.

It's particularly good for anger management therapy with children. If they can witness other people being angry and be angry themselves in a safe environment, within a planned storyline, it helps them to work through some of their issues.

It does need a lot of talking and a lot of practice before everyone gets to the point where it will do some good though.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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