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 the creative process. It makes use of various art forms like painting, doodling, music, sound making, performance, movement, writing, clay work or even video making. Often multiple art genres are included in a session, which makes EXAT truly intermodal. The instructions for particular activities are easy and fun. 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 creative 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, 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 sensitive facilitator. The process is simple and deep at the same time. Active participation in creation processes 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. The story can be told, witnessed, and acknowledge. A true and genuine voice can be found.

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Expressive Arts methodology supports both individuals and groups in personal growth and 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 EXA are designed in a way that basically anyone 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 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.

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 playfulness and ease into life. It lets individuals relax and create meanings that allow them to move on.

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Yohaku Art Collective uses intermodal Expressive Arts Therapy to support processes of inquiry and transformation through work with imagination 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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