What is expressive arts therapy?

What is Expressive Arts Therapy?

Intermodal Expressive Arts Therapy (EXAT) is a process- and resource-oriented practice that combines psychological approaches with genuine expression. It makes use of various art forms like painting, doodling, music, sound, performance, movement, writing, clay work or digital media. Often multiple art genres are included in one session. The instructions for particular activities are easy and playful. However, they have a high emotional impact.

In the Expressive Arts settings, different art forms come into play to stimulate imagination and allow people to connect with their true longings. In the creation process, something surprising, touching, and beautiful can show itself: an existing resource, an undiscovered quality, a completely new perspective. In this way, people get an insight into what is needed, create more self-understanding and reconnect with themselves and the world on a deeper level. It helps them in building a long-lasting feeling of resilience and more stable relationships. Finally, they can bring the learnings from the art-based process into daily life and shape their realities in a much more caring and conscious way.

In intermodal Expressive Arts Therapy, the process of doing something else (an expression used first by H. Eberhardt) is emphasized and placed in the centre of attention. Created art 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, hear, 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 playful experiments happens under the guidance of a caring and attentive facilitator. The process can be very simple and deep at the same time. Active participation in creation processes helps to initiate change and step into the unknown (meaning: into the future) with more ease. At the same time, more sustainable ways of dealing with life situations are developed by clients. One starts to see the potential for self-expression and can experience a full spectrum of emotions with more self-awareness. The story can be told, witnessed, and acknowledge. A feeling, experience, or a memory finds a true and genuine form.

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Expressive Arts Therapy supports both individuals and groups in personal growth and in times of transformation. It can be used for children, as well as youth and adults no matter the life experience and the place of origin. Activities in EXAT are designed in a way that basically anyone can participate and enjoy the process of making art. The act of creation comes from within and is channelled through the senses touched by one’s own sensitivity.

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

EXAT 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 mental self-care methods, as they offer participants time and space to safely encounter in a playful act of pure creation. The beauty of art-making brings a little bit more ease into life. It lets individuals relax and create meanings allowing them to move on.

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Yohaku Art Collective uses intermodal expressive arts to support processes of inquiry and transformation through work with imagination, play and art-making. Together, we facilitate change in groups and communities. At Yohaku, 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.


The International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA)

Expressive Arts Therapy | Psychology Today

Trauma-informed Expressive Arts Therapy

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