Expressive Arts Therapy

If your heart could talk, what would it say?

Give that a moment. You might close your eyes, drop into yourself. Sense your heart’s true expression. If it had a color, what might that be? A texture or energy, or an image? When you have given it enough attention it will tell you what it says, what it wants, and what it really needs right now.

We don’t often give ourselves permission to listen to the voice of the body, but it has much to tell us! When we give it the space to express itself in movement, drawing, writing and sound, we create an alchemical transformation on the cellular level.

The body is physically restricted when emotions are bound up inside. People’s shoulders tighten; their facial muscles tense. They spend enormous energy on holding back their tears – or any sound or movement that might betray their inner state. When the physical tension is released, the feelings can be released. Movement helps breathing to become deeper, and as the tensions are released, expressive sounds can be discharged. The body becomes freer- breathing freer, being in flow.” –Bessel Van Der Kolk

A client who recently came to my practice (we’ll call him John), was there for neurofeedback, to help him with his difficulty in speaking. He has a narcissistic angry father who was impatient with him as a child, and a mother who talks at him but doesn’t listen to him. His voice has been lodged in his throat since childhood. Initially the neurofeedback helped, and then we decided to add EMDR. During the EMDR process, he realized he was being soothed by the bilateral stimulation process (as it does), and that what he really wanted was to release his stuck feelings. So, we began with making sounds. Then we added permission to say all the things that he’d never said to both of his parents. Then we added volume and force. Then we added the ability to take up space in the room. From there, stomping and chanting, John told me he felt like a Maori tribesman. I was overjoyed! Yes! His movement and imagination freed his voice in saying, “I am John! I can speak!”

“In this approach to movement-based expressive arts therapy, people learn a practice which teaches them how to access and understand the messages of their bodies within the larger context of what is happening in their lives. Not only can we cultivate awareness and the ability to witness what is happening in us by focusing on the body, using expressive movement we can respond consciously and work creatively with whatever arises. By going to the deepest levels of our physical, emotional, and thinking body, we can free ourselves of some of our conditioning and history.” – Daria Halprin, co-founder of The Tamalpa Institute