What is Expressive Arts Therapy?

Wellness Wheel from Trauma-Informed Expressive Arts Therapy Level Two with Cathy Malchiodi PhD

Humans have historically used the arts in integrative ways, particularly within the contexts of enactment, ceremony, performance, and ritual. Expressive arts therapy is a field of practice that emerged in the latter part of the 20th century. In contrast to individual applications of specific art forms described in the previous section, expressive arts therapy is understood as the use of more than one art form, consecutively or in combination and depending on individual or group goals. In other words, one art form may dominate a session, or multiple forms may be introduced in work with a child, adult, family, or group. As mental health and health care have shifted toward more integrative approaches to treatment, expressive arts therapy has gained the attention of a wide range of practitioners interested in applying sensory-based, action-oriented methods within their work, rather than one arts-based approach. In particular, the field of arts in health care has cited the role of expressive arts therapy in hospitals, inferring that it is one of the key strategies currently being used to humanize patient care through the integration of all the arts and psychotherapy.


There are two basic principles inherent to the use of expressive arts in psychotherapy. First, the arts are forms of self-expression that not only complement the process of therapy, but also can illuminate and extend the value and possibilities for change, reparation, and growth within the therapeutic process. Second, the combined use of the arts for health and well-being, including the amelioration of trauma, is not something new; it is part of humankind’s collective history to use art, music and sound, move- ment and dance, dramatic enactment, and other forms of imagination in response to trauma and loss. 


Download a copy of A 2020 Vision for Expressive Arts Therapy here:

A 2020 Vision for Expressive Arts Therapy by Cathy Malchiodi PhD for Psychology Today Online | Arts and Health
A description of expressive arts therapy and how it allows us to tell our stories, including traumatic experiences, through image, sound, music, movement, storytelling, narrative writing, and dramatic enactment.
2020 Vision_Expressive Arts Therapy.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 365.5 KB

 Registered Expressive Arts Therapist (REAT) | International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA) 

The International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA) offers a credential called the REAT -- Registered Expressive Arts Therapist. For more information about this credential, please contact the IEATA for information on their registration process at https://www.ieata.org/reat-standard-requirements. IEATA has recently updated their standards for applying for the REAT credential. Consider becoming a member of IEATA if you are interested in becoming a REAT. We provide supervision in individual and group formats for the REAT; please go to this link for more information.