Expressive Therapy

As we look forward to our Spring semester at the Institute, I am always so excited about our Level I and Level II programs in Advanced Trauma Treatment.  Both of these programs embrace the true concepts of “trauma informed care,” which in part has everything to do with the clinician’s ability to weave right-brain based modalities into the treatment process.  Trauma therapists now understand that simply engaging traumatized clients in “talk therapy” all session, every session, will not help them achieve the level of processing and healing they want and deserve.

Important aspects of clients’ traumatic experiences are not stored in the part of their brains that deal with speech. Therefore, when we ask clients to verbally or emotionally explore their memories and feelings, they often either glaze over, shrug their shoulders, or say “I know something happened, I just can’t explain it.” In the “old days” clinicians misinterpreted these responses as resistance, a lack of cooperation, client belligerence, or ambivalence about the therapy process. Now we know that those responses were valid.  We were asking clients to speak from a part of their brains that didn’t have and couldn’t communicate the information.  Rather than seeing this as clients’ unwillingness to “tell” their stories with words, we can now use those moments to shift gears and introduce modalities that access a different part of their brains, allowing for the creative expression of memory and feeling.  How can we “shift gears?” We can:

  • Incorporate art techniques therapeutically or inviting clients to use sand tray to externalize various “parts” of self that mediate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and to illustrate or re-story painful memories.
  • Work somatically to help clients first go to body sensation and then translate those experiences into feelings and words.
  • Use music to access emotion or song lyrics to help clients give “voice’ to their feelings.
  • Invite non-dominant hand journaling to access a different kind of cognitive processing and to “speak” the “unspeakable.”
  • Integrate visualization and guided imagery to install safety and self-soothing so trauma can be comfortably processed.
  • Employ dolls, puppets, or psychodrama to externalize experiences, gain distance and perspective, or increase empathy for parts of self and parts in others.

Whatever creative approach we use, we are gifting the client with new ways to connect with, communicate, and heal their experiences.  In our Level I and Level II programs, as well as so many of our individual trainings that focus on expressive therapies, you will deepen your skill set, discover the power of these therapeutic tools, and increase your own comfort level with critically important modalities.  I invite you to access and expand your own creative parts. It will enlighten you, enhance your own sense of personal and professional growth, and provide you with invaluable resources that will truly make your work “trauma-informed.”

Check out these expressive therapy workshops coming your way this spring:

(NEW) Helping Clients Re-story Their Narratives: Enhancing Regulation and Self-Esteem

(NEW) The Heart of Art Therapy: Bringing Creativity into Clinical Practice

(NEW) Play Therapy in Clinical Practice: Using Puppets and Dolls to Heal the Wounds of Trauma, Depression, and Anxiety

Direct Your Parts with Psychodrama: A Psychodramatic Approach to Working with Inner Parts

One thought on "The Power of Expressive Modalities"

  1. Lisa –
    You are so right in this, the necessity of going beyond talk therapy. Here are three modalities to explore and incorporate:
    1) Core Transformation. Developed by Connirae Andreas, CT works with an internal part (or parts), beginning way asking “What do you want?” and, through a series of iterations, arriving at a “Core State,” a state of being, and using that to transform the part – and the person.
    2) Wholeness work, developed more recently by Connirae Andreas.
    3) Metaphors of Movement, from Andrew T. Austin.
    I will be glad to discuss all of these with you at length.

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