What is Expressive Arts Therapy?

what is expressive arts therapy

Expressive arts therapy (EXA) is a process- and resource-oriented art therapy method using various art forms, like painting, doodling, music, singing, theatre, dance, writing, or video making. Often multiple art genres are included in a session. The instructions for particular activities are easy and fun. However, they have a high emotional impact.

In this method, the process of doing something else is emphasized and placed it in the centre of attention. Created pieces are as important as the process itself. They are acknowledged with equal attention and respect.

Both the participants and the facilitators refer to the description of their experience based on what they see and sense in the present moment. They do their best to keep away from any interpretations or assumptions that could potentially come along. This descriptive approach stimulates emotional growth and widens the perspective on different aspects of everyday life.

The initiation of transformation through joyful and experimental art-making happens naturally. It is playful and fun. The process of art creation helps to initiate change and step into the unknown (into the future) with more ease. At the same time, more sustainable ways of dealing with life situations are developed. One starts to see the potential for self-expression and can experience a full spectrum of emotions with more self-awareness.

EXA methodology supports both individuals and groups in personal growth and transformation. It can be used for children, as well as youth and adults. Activities in EXA are designed in a way that basically everyone can participate and enjoy the process of making art. The creative act comes from within and is channelled through the senses touched by one’s own sensitivity.

In the EXA practice, individuals move from the problem to an alternative world of imagination. From there, new perspectives on life can be both discovered and explored. Art creation becomes a pathway to more honest self-expression and better self-understanding. Overall, that can result in a more satisfying and fulfilling life.

EXA practices unite people and help them to find a connection with oneself and with one another. They are a great alternative to other well-known self-care practices, as they offer participants time and space to safely encounter in the act of pure creation. The beauty of art-making brings a little bit more joy into life. It lets individuals relax and create meanings that allow them to move on.

Yohaku Art Collective uses expressive arts therapy methods to support processes of inquiry and transformation through creativity and art-making. We facilitate change in individuals, groups, and communities. We leave the space empty for joyful art creation, a face-to-face encounter with true needs and longings, and active participation in making a change through art.


Step Ahead. Expressive Arts Institute in Berlin, Germany

Expressive Arts Therapy at the European Graduate School (EGS)

The International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA)


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