Tap into Your "Bob Ross" Energy – How Expressive Therapy Promotes Healing (and 4 Types to Try)

Posted: November 22, 2021








Mental Health

At this point, we all feel some type of way when we hear the word “therapy.” Whether you’ve been around the block with various counselors or moved every muscle for PT docs, you have dug deep and pushed far. 

There’s no denying therapy is beneficial to your mind, body, and soul. Talk therapy is what comes to mind for most people, which fosters a judgment-free space to discuss real issues and an action plan to address them. But sometimes, verbal communication isn’t enough. Enter: expressive therapy.

Expressive therapy uses creative activities to help you share and process feelings and memories that may be hard to put into words.

Expression is more than what your teenage self did by blasting hard rock or getting yet another piercing (sorry, Mom).

It can sometimes be hard to verbalize your struggles, experiences, and fears. Many times, you don’t even know they exist until they’re expressed without words. Therapy through the arts can summon the deep – sometimes hidden – feelings out into light, color, and movement. 

“Art therapy does not cure disease; it is a supplement to medical practice and a complementary therapy,” says Dr. Barrie Cassileth Ph.D. “Creative energy—one’s own or another’s—may assist healing and help patients cope with or overcome physical and mental distress.” 

The beauty of creativity? You don’t need a degree from Juilliard to consider expressive therapy. In fact, you don’t even need to be slightly “good” at said activity. It’s more about the process itself than the actual results. Happy strokes make happy trees.

Four types of expressive therapy you can start now

Expression happens in so many various arts, but there are four we’ll focus on here: art, dance, music, and writing. The best part? You can try some of these activities at home without a certified counselor present. 

1. Art

You could be the next Picasso or have the artistic abilities of a young toddler. Either way, art therapy is a common method of expressive therapy done through painting, drawing, sculpting, or similar. Tap into your creative side to express heavy thoughts and emotions in a visual display. 

Studies show that art therapy can help those in and post-treatment focus on positivity and good vibes. That’s the confidence boost we all need right now. 

Here are some ways to try art therapy:

  • “Twistshops” promote healing, relaxation, and emotional recovery for cancer patients in a workshop setting. 

  • Choose a word and create a painting or drawing that represents what it means to you (e.g. “healing” or “freedom”). You may see an emergence of color and shapes, patterns or strokes that help articulate what’s inside.

  • Practice hand lettering to help your words and journaling look and feel like a masterpiece. Find a favorite quote and use the formation of individual letters as a therapeutic creation process. This works with any tools on hand, like a pen, pencil, or watercolor paints.

  • Check out this list from GoodTherapy for more ideas like fingerpainting, sculpting, and even scribbling.

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