The Benefits of Expressive Arts and Experiential Therapy

The 19th-century composer Felix Mendelssohn once said, “The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety.” Of course, this concept goes well beyond the world of classical music. Though it might not be the first place one might imagine, this concept is critical in the recovery realm. Variety is crucial in creating an effective treatment plan. This is not simply because a “one-note” treatment plan would soon feel stale. No, it is because utilizing multiple modalities will ensure that the whole individual is treated, and not just their symptoms. Also, this is not achieved solely via evidence-based treatments but with expressive arts and experiential therapy as well.

At Galen Hope, we offer many therapies under the expressive arts and experiential umbrella. We do this because treatment should never be solely clinical or diagnostic. Treatment should work with an individual’s strengths and interests to help them engage with the tools and techniques that will help them move forward and beyond their mental health and/or eating disorder struggles.

We offer expressive arts and experiential therapies such as art, cinema, movement therapy, therapeutic expression and writing, and nature therapy, to name but a few. Also, we offer these therapies as supplements that can help to bolster and strengthen our customized recovery plans that first start with a foundation of evidence-based treatments. At Galen Hope, we use a variety of treatment modalities to make a unified recovery plan for each of our clients.

Understanding Expressive Arts and Experiential Therapy

The basis of expressive arts and experiential therapy can be found right in their names. These therapies utilize expressive tools and techniques to help individuals to re-engage with and re-enact their past experiences. Primarily these are past emotional and/or traumatic experiences or relationships.

By using these expressive tools and techniques, rather than more traditional talk and psychotherapy, individuals can connect with their experiences in an organic and sometimes even subconscious manner. These therapies can also be exceptionally effective because they can be tailored to fit an individual’s specific strengths and interests to help them interact with the therapy on a more intimate and personal level.

One of the misconceptions regarding expressive arts and experiential therapy is that it is not grounded in psychological study. This is simply misguided and false. These therapies are always administered under the guidance of trained professional experiential therapists. They are licensed therapists that are highly skilled and focused on their specialized modality. They can use the tools of expression to help an individual cope with their underlying negative emotions and traumas, as well as explore situations and emotions that are difficult for an individual to express in a traditional talk session. These therapies can also be highly beneficial because they can offer techniques that an individual can utilize beyond a recovery center’s doors.

Types of Expressive Arts and Experiential Therapy

The iconic scientific philosopher Francis Bacon said, “Nothing is pleasant that is not spiced with variety.” Just like mental health treatment is not a monolith, expressive arts and experiential therapies are vast and varied. The following are just a few of the expressive arts and experiential therapies that we offer at Galen Hope.

Cinema Therapy

This therapy allows individuals and their therapists to utilize film to help discuss and relate to specific issues that they are trying to work through. Certain scenes and characters in cinema therapy help people communicate the emotions they feel that they otherwise may not have been able to connect with.

Art Therapy

This therapy generally uses tools of fine art, such as drawing, painting, and sculpting, to allow for self-expression that then helps the therapist assess what an individual may be experiencing. Like cinema therapy, art therapy can help someone express their emotions nonverbally in ways that they may otherwise not be able to express.

Movement Therapy

Like art therapy, movement therapy does not fall under one “medium” of movement. Movement therapy can help an individual connect mind and body through dance and other modalities like yoga. This movement can be a nonverbal outlet to help individuals express and connect to their emotions in different and meaningful ways.

Nature Therapy

This therapy is a way to utilize external surroundings to connect with the internal self. In nature therapy, an individual can begin to cope with their mental health struggles by engaging with the vastness of the universe and better find their place within it. It has also been shown that connecting with nature increases dopamine and serotonin and thus increases positive mood.

Variety in a Customized Recovery Plan

Perhaps the most well-known maxim regarding variety was penned by the English poet William Cowper. He is the one who first wrote, “Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor.”

Why should treatment and recovery be any different? At Galen Hope, we do not believe in “cookie-cutter” recovery plans. We believe in customized care. Our expressive arts and experiential therapy programs are just one of the ways that help us make those beliefs a reality.

THE ROAD TO WELLNESS STARTS BY SEEKING HELP. TODAY. Built on the principles of assertive community treatment, Galen Hope is an eating disorder and mental health treatment center offering individualized treatment options that include Intensive Outpatient (IOP), supported housing, and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP). As a “Community of Integrated Wellness,” we pride ourselves in fostering a thoughtful and meaningful care experience that can guide our clients on their road to recovery and increased quality of life, regardless of diagnosis. Galen Hope currently offers separate, age-specific programming for adolescents ages 12-17 and adults 18 and up of all genders. To learn more or to join our community for integrated wellness, please contact us today at (888) 592-1817.

Belong. Heal. Grow.

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