The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) (Foa et al, 2009) provides a comprehensive summary of the role of the creative art therapies, including art therapy, in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The ISTSS statement underscores the growing interest the relationship between the creative arts therapies and the brain, including how the brain processes traumatic events and the possibilities for reparation through art, music, movement, play, and drama therapies.


Creative interventions have been formalized through the disciplines of art therapy, music therapy, dance/movement therapy, drama therapy or psychodrama, poetry therapy, and play therapy, including sand tray therapy. Each discipline has been applied in psychotherapy and counseling with individuals of all ages and particularly children for more than 50 years. Art, music, dance, drama, and poetry therapies are referred to as “creative arts therapies” because of their roots in the arts and theories of creativity. These therapies and others that utilize self-expression in treatment are also called “expressive therapies” (Malchiodi, 2005). Expressive therapies are often defined as the use of art, music, dance/movement, drama, poetry/creative writing, bibliotherapy, play, and sand tray within the context of psychotherapy, counseling, rehabilitation, or medicine. Additionally, expressive therapies are sometimes referred to as “integrative” when used in combination in treatment.

 These individual approaches are defined as follows:


  • Art therapy is defined as the use of art media, images, and the creative process, and respects patient/client responses to the created products as reflections of development, abilities, personality, interests, concerns, and conflicts. It is a therapeutic means of reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, developing social skills, managing behavior, solving problems, reducing anxiety, aiding reality orientation, and increasing self-esteem.
  • Music therapy is the prescribed use of music to effect positive changes in the psychological, physical, cognitive, or social functioning of individuals with health or educational problems.

  • Drama therapy is the systematic and intentional use of drama/theater processes, products, and associations to achieve the therapeutic goals of symptom relief, emotional and physical integration, and personal growth. It is an active approach that helps the client tell his or her story to solve a problem, achieve a catharsis, extend the depth and breadth of inner experience, understand the meaning of images, and strengthen the ability to observe personal roles while increasing flexibility between roles.

  • Dance/movement therapy is based on the assumption that body and mind are interrelated and is defined as the psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process which furthers the emotional, cognitive and physical integration of the individual. Dance/movement therapy effects changes in feelings, cognition, physical functioning, and behavior.
  • Poetry therapy and bibliotherapy are terms used synonymously to describe the intentional use of poetry and other forms of literature for healing and personal growth.


Creative Arts in Counseling | Creativity in Counseling

Counseling is one mental health profession that has a growing interest in using drawing, photography, and other art forms such as music, play, drama and dance/movement to enhance counseling interventions with individuals, groups and families. Many art therapists in the US, for example, are now licensed as professional or mental health counselors or in California, as marriage and family therapists. In 2004, "creativity in counseling" was formalized within the American Counseling Association (ACA) as its 19th Division, the Association for Creativity in Counseling (ACC). But before that, creative approaches to treatment have had a long history within the fields of psychology, psychotherapy, psychiatry and counseling, including the work of Natalie Rogers, daughter of person-centered and humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers. Natalie Rogers integrated her father's person-centered and humanistic principles with expressive arts therapies. Other powerful advocates include Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, Virginia Satir, Bunny Duhl, and Peggy Papp, all of whom in some way saw counseling as a creative endeavor. Many counselors have embraced these approaches because they reflect the field's collective beliefs in human potential, diverse communication, and authentic self-expression.