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Creative arts therapy, also known as expressive therapy, is the intentional use of the creative arts as a form of therapy. Unlike traditional art expression, the process of creation is emphasized rather than the final aesthetic product. Expressive therapy works under the assumption that through use of imagination and the various forms of creative expression, humans can heal. Most forms of creative expression have an equivalent therapeutic discipline:
- Art Therapy - The use of painting, drawing, sculpture and other forms of art as therapy.
- Dance Therapy - The use of kinesthetic expression as therapy.
- Drama Therapy - The use of theater tools and improvisation as therapy. Includes Psychodrama.
- Music Therapy - The use of listening, playing and personalizing music as therapy.
- Play Therapy - The use of playing with toys, observing play as therapy. Includes Sandbox Therapy.
- Poetry Therapy - The use of the written word, generated and historical as therapy. Includes Bibliotherapy.
- Recreation therapy
Expressive therapists are often known as dance therapists, art therapists, music therapists, drama therapists and as other names based on their choice of primary artistic expression, also known as their modality. Usually, being an expressive therapist is a masters level clinician, often coupled with other liscensure or certification. In common, all expressive therapists share the belief that it is through creative expression and the tapping of the imagination a person can examine the body, feelings, emotions and his or her thought process.
Although often separated by the form of creative art, some expressive therapists consider themselves intermodal, using expression in general, rather than a specific discipline to treat clients, altering their approach based on the clients' needs, or through using multiple forms of expression with the same client to aid with deeper exploration.
Expressive therapists work with a wide variety of populations in a wide variety of environments. They have worked in areas such as medical illness, grief, educational and behavioral problems, emotional issues, and even criminal behavior.
There is a certification process for the "Certified Expressive Therapist", and the "Certified Expressive Arts Therapist", and the "Expressive Therapist Registered", as well as certifications within each of the specific disciplines.
Significant contributors to this field include Shaun McNiff, Paolo Knill, Steve Ross, as well as Steven and Ellen Levine.
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