Expressive therapy—the use of the creative arts in a therapeutic setting—exists for a reason. The arts are an often underexplored way to heal. In one review of six studies, half found a significant decrease in symptoms of trauma after art therapy. One found a significant decrease in symptoms of depression.
Being creative can bring you into a “flow state,” which is when you are “in the zone.” Being in a flow state deactivates the part of your brain that is referred to as your “inner critic,” boosts mood, and reduces anxiety.
Every Creative Art is Beneficial in its Own Way
Creativity comes in many forms, and each has its own benefits. Writing helps you process traumas by allowing you to organize thoughts. In the book The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk, MD, discusses how trauma turns off parts of the brain involved in making sense of experiences; writing can be a way to access the emotions involved and make meaning out of traumatic experiences. One study found that expressive writing reduced stigma-related stress in gay men.
Art is non-verbal, which can help you express trauma or painful emotions you may not be able to put into words. Once you have created the art, you can look for patterns that help you understand your feelings and build self-awareness.
Music has numerous benefits. Darin McFayden—a DJ and producer who is also trained in the Yogic, Tibetan Buddhist and Theravada Buddhist meditative traditions—sees connections between listening to music and meditating. He points out that both activities help us quiet our brains and stay present.
A review of 28 studies found that in 26, music therapy led to a significant decrease in symptoms of depression. The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) interviewed Sean Driscoll—a writer, musician, and speaker—who said, “I have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed when I was 15 years old…Music was something that I used to tap into my emotions in a positive and healthy way.”
The Arts Have Always Been Healing
These are just some of the many creative arts available—and only a fraction of their benefits. As verywellmind so eloquently put it, “People have been relying on the arts to communicate, express themselves, and heal for thousands of years.”
This was true long before any of the expressive arts therapies were officially formed. The power of art to heal is not just some woo-woo thing; it changes us in concrete, measurable ways.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. We offer expressive therapy to help you connect to creativity and heal. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.