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Health and the Expressive Therapies

written by Guest Blogger November 19, 2009

Editor’s Note: This guest post features Toronto freelance writer (and my respected friend), Grace Cherian, who specializes in writing for holistic health professionals. Today she shares with us several forms of expressive therapy and their healing potential.

We’re made up of body, mind and soul. If one of these aspects goes out of kilter, that adversely affects our overall health. But the expressive therapies can help us to stay balanced.

Last year, I joined Creative Works Studio (CWS) after seeing a display of the works of some of the artists from the studio. CWS is a community art program of St. Michael’s Hospital which operates in partnership with the Good Shepherd Non–Profit Homes Inc.

The expressive therapies such as drawing, painting and sculpting help us to reconcile inner conflicts, release deeply repressed emotions and foster self-awareness as well as personal growth. They also help us to heal.

On November 26, CWS will be launching our 2010 calendar and an exhibit, the theme of which is Reflections on Joy. I’ve sculpted an elaborate clay peacock candle holder and completed two Joy paintings for this exhibit.

Painting

Sunrise

I go to CWS regularly because I’ve experienced the power of art to heal me. For instance, one of my Joy paintings depicts a baby with a sunrise in the background. The baby represents my youngest brother, Wilson, who died very tragically fourteen years ago when he was just thirty years old. Wils lit up my life. The sunrise in the painting represents that.

As I discussed this painting with Isabel Fryszberg, the facilitator and occupational therapist at CWS, I began to weep. The painting evoked many mixed, deeply buried feelings that had had no other outlet: the joy Wils had brought into my life, regret and guilt over not having done certain things with or for him, etc. But the tears were incredibly cathartic and helped me to heal a little from losing Wils.

Dance/Movement

For some of us, our spirits soar when we let our feet fly. Others, particularly those who prefer more structure or who feel we have “two left feet,” gain the same sense of release and inner peace from the martial arts such as Tai Chi. Those of us who are recovering from physical, sexual or emotional abuse may find these techniques especially helpful for gaining a sense of ease with our bodies. The underlying premise to dance/movement therapy is that it helps us integrate the emotional, physical and cognitive facets of “self.”

Music/Sound

Many of us turn on soothing music to relax or snazzy tunes to help feel upbeat. Research suggests that music stimulates our body’s natural “feel good” chemicals (opiates and endorphins). This stimulation improves blood flow, blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing and posture changes. Music or sound therapy has been used to treat disorders such as stress, grief, depression, schizophrenia, autism in children and to diagnose mental health needs.

Prose/Poetry

Writing provides us with another creative outlet to work through and heal from difficult experiences.

For many of us, healing is a spiritual path, a transformational process and a way of being. The creative process provides us with a powerful healing force. Making art frees our bodies’ healing mechanisms. It unites body, mind, and spirit.

About the Author

Grace Cherian is a Toronto-based professional copywriter. For more information about her, go to www.gracecherian.com.

I truly understand the healing potential of expressive therapies – whenever I’m feeling down doing any of the above artistic expressions always lift me up. Do you employ any of these therapies when you need help dealing with the challenges in your life?

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3 comments

Head Health Nutter November 24, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Grace!

I actually performed some expressive therapy over the weekend and it felt AWESOME!

I had a couple of horrible days in a row and was feeling quite tormented. I put my MP3 player on random, put my earphones in my ears and just let the music move me.

I was dancing away, lip-syncing and just let it all out – in the kitchen, no less! Not sure how long I was in the moment for but it was at least 5 songs.

I felt so much lighter (and exhausted) after I was done! The funny thing is that almost immediately following my dance session, my situation magically resolved itself!

I will definitely be trying more expressive therapies in the future. 🙂

Steph

Reply
Grace Cherian November 25, 2009 at 11:47 am

Hey Steph,

I’m so glad to hear that dancing helped you resolve your difficult situation!

Grace

Reply
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