The Use of Expressive Arts in Therapy: Is it for You?

Expressive Arts Therapy with Michelle A Coomes MA, LMFT
Expressive Arts Therapy with Michelle A Coomes MA, LMFT

Expressive arts therapy is a multimodal approach to therapy. This type of therapy may incorporate writing, movement, painting, use of nature and/or music. Alongside talk therapy, or in some cases, exclusive to talk therapy, clients are encouraged to explore their responses, reactions, and insights via pictures, sounds, explorations, and encounters with art processes. Informed by the unfolding process of creating and working with imagination, a connection occurs that supports clients to create new experiences, insight, and direction. A person is not required to have artistic ability to use or benefit from expressive arts therapy. Expressive arts therapy can also help create a more positive and healthier relationship with oneself and those around them.

I draw heavily on the fields of art therapy & expressive arts therapy in my work, especially with my younger clients. Both of these therapies are statistically shown to help children who may not have developed a vocabulary to describe or explain what is troubling them. Thoughts and feelings which are sometimes hard to express in words can often be expressed in images or through play. The use of art allows the child to keep a safe psychological distance from their difficulties as they work on solving them.

Art therapy is also useful with teens. Using art facilitates communication between the young person and me by allowing feelings and inner conflicts to be expressed and resolved. The art they make helps me gain insight into their unique situations and sense of self in a way that is not as threatening for the young person as traditional “talk” therapy. I also use narrative therapy, cognitive restructuring, and relaxation breathing as well as any other research based methods that I feel are appropriate on an individual basis.

At times, I like to bring the use of art into family and couples sessions. Adults sometimes need a different way to process and experience their life difficulties and I have found that those who are willing to try, often have pleasant and powerful results.

I am a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist practicing in the Lake Norman area of North Carolina. I do hold a post graduate certification in Expressive Art Therapy from Appalachian State University. I enjoy working with people on improving their lives, relationships and feeling all around more mentally healthy. If you’d like more information about working with me with the use of art therapy, contact me today.

Michelle A Coomes MA, LMFT


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