The Expressive Arts Experience - Yvette Lyons, Ph.D., Expressive Arts Therapist

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I am writing this blog about how Expressive Arts is used in the world because I get this question all the time.   I will try to cover all of the possibilities and options that I can think of, but I am always amazed at my students who find even more unique ways in which to use their training in expressive art and combine it with what they already are doing in the world.
Let begin ~ First, I usually prefer to speak to people over the phone about this topic because it is so vast that it is difficult to write about.  But I am going to give it my best try.
Individual and Group Counseling ~ OK, Lets start with individual and group healing healing through art.  We learn in the training that art heals!  It does! Our brains speak the language of image long before we learn to speak, giving us a language to communicate with that goes deeper and farther back than words.  When we can not find the words to express something, art can do this for us. We will also learn in the training that music can heal the body and brain.  Music is a powerful healer, which can even regenerate the brain after damage has occurred.  Movement is also a great healer. Our bodies are the memory bank for our emotions. Blocked emotions and pain and trauma blocks our bodies resulting in physical and emotional distress.   Our bodies are the vessel for the creative life force, and when we free up our bodies, and open our channels, we move out of pain and memories locked in our bodies, allowing for healing to occur and this gives us the chance to live a healthier, happier life.   So, the arts are used for healing the individual. This is where Expressive Arts is used in therapy, and in treatment programs such as drug & alcohol, eating disorders,  PTSD and trauma programs etc. Expressive Arts can be used in the prison systems as well. The Expressive Arts are also used in individual counseling and group counseling.
Medical Healing ~ Art heals the mind/emotions/body and spirit.  Art programs are very popular in the hospital settings.  Art has been used on cancer wards; in children’s wards, with the patients as well as their families.  Hospital staffs know the benefits art has on the healing process and thus many hospitals employ Art and Expressive Arts, Music Therapist.  
Coming Together and Healing the Community and Globe ~ When we speak of global healing, we first need to look locally.  Starting or becoming a part of a community program in your area is the first step in helping to heal us globally.  However, so much work needs to be done with regards to healing social and global problems. Children of war; Drumming for peace. You are only bound by your imagination. 
Healing from PTSD, Trauma and Natural Disasters ~  When trauma hits, we are usually unprepared, we have little resources, and support. When trauma affects us it leaves deep scars that may last a lifetime.  Expressive Arts helps victims of trauma express their trauma in safe ways. Giving a voice and the ability to externalize their traumatic memories and experiences.  This is so important whether the trauma comes from childhood abuse, a natural disaster, or the ravages of war.  art, music, writing and storytelling and movement all work together to help those affected heal from their traumatic pain. 
Child Adolescent Healing ~  School Programs, teaching Social Skill building; Self Esteem Building; Bullying; Communication; Creative Problem Solving.  Expressive arts is also great when used with children on the Autistic Spectrum Scale as it is sensory, and it promotes positive connection in safe and fun ways.  
Creative Aging ~ Using the Arts with the Aging population.  The Elderly have specific needs such as the need to connect.  The elderly population tend to isolate and become depressed. They need to move their bodies and they need to sing, both of which bring circulation to their sedentary systems as well as releases good brain chemicals which help lift their mood.  Music helps with insomnia, pain and so much more.  Art, music, dance/movement, singing, drumming help them feel connected and joyful, and enriches their lives.
Expressive Arts in the Corporate world ~ There are so many studies showing how employee enrichment programs help company employees have a positive outlook and feeling about their jobs. This help them be more productive, and take less time off for illness.  Corporations are becoming more informed on the overall benefit of enriching programs to help with this.  Art, Music, Drumming, Dance/Movement all help to develop positive work skills, such as Positive Communication Skills, Creative Problem Solving Skills, Community, and Leadership skills. 
Expressive Arts with Community Outreach programs ~ Reaching out to various communities such as cultural programs, Community Art Projects, help bring people together in community in a positive way to share time and be connected and share stories.  
Legal System is another very valuable place where Expressive Arts can be used.  Having have worked in the Foster System for years, I know that when children are removed from their homes due to abuse of one sort or another, parents have to work a serious program to regain their parental privileges. Expressive Arts are a great tool to work in groups with parenting classes, to help parents learn to be better caregivers.
Art and Spirituality ~  You can’t do art without bringing in the spiritual element.  Art helps us heal.  When we release past pain and trauma, loneliness, depression, confusion, we are freed to fill up with more light and spirit.  I always, see art leading to a higher realm of consciousness.   It elevates us.  Many time people become lost spiritually and the arts can help them reconnect with a sense of the divine.  
Expressive Arts and Happiness ~ Bringing people together to make art always leads to upliftment. Even if there was some pain, or tears… the art making process helps to heal that opening us up to greater feelings of joy and happiness.  Women’s groups, Men’s Groups, Children’s Groups of art bring people together in a creative way than enhanced and creates a resonance of creativity that is deeply felt. Expressive Arts Retreats for Creative Renewal is also a big area where this type of modality is used.  People are hungry to be creative.  We need more of these types of programs and events. 
Area to Explore where Expressive Arts can be helpful:
Hospitals ~ Children’s Hospitals; Cancer Wards; Hospice
Elderly and Alzheimer’s Facilities
Adolescent and Adult Chemical Dependency Treatment programs
Residential Treatment Facilities for various populations 
Employee Enrichment
County programs
Prisons and the Legal System
Homeless Programs
VA Programs
Community Out Reach Programs
Non-Profit Organizations ~ Red Cross, UniCef, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, American Cancer Society, Big Brother etc. 
Disaster Relief ~ FEMA, Red Cross, Americares, World Relief etc. 
Some unique ways I have seen people incorporate the Expressive Arts into their own professions;  *Music teachers using expressive arts to teach music and singing;  *Clowns trained in Expressive Arts taking it into Hospitals to help with child terminal illness;  *People relocated from other countries using Expressive Arts to help other people from their country integrate into a new culture and society. One of my favorite things to do is to watch my students discover their own unique way in which to bring the arts into the world for personal, communal, and global healing and transformation.
I hope this article helps your get creative and begin to think about how you can use the arts for healing in your own lives.

Yvette Lyons, Ph.D.


"Creativity Takes Courage" Henri Matisse


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