Alongside traditional “talk therapy,” I often use creative approaches with clients in therapy. Honoring client’s choice is fundamental to my approach. However, different things work for different people. And, I am all about adapting the approach to the client’s needs.
So, what does it mean to get creative in therapy?
“Creative” is actually a broad term and not solely focused on the arts. In many ways, the therapy process itself is a collaborative, creative process to create change. With this in mind, the process of therapy will generally have creativity at it the heart of change. Even if we never pick up any art supplies in therapy.
An example of a creative approach could be creating mixed media projects to narrate a life story. We could use a creative approach to honor a lost loved one or show love to a difficult part of oneself. Additionally, creative approaches can help contain tough feelings, or remind us of our strengths.
However, working creatively in therapy can also include less artsy approaches. Like, going to a garden together to practice meditation, or utilizing guided visualizations. Painting our nails in therapy to practice self-care could also be seen as a creative approach.
Of course, it can also be as simple as using color to express emotions. Or, even, bringing your journal to therapy when it gets hard to “figure out what to say.”
How do creative approaches help?
Sometimes even the option of a creative or even alternative approach can be helpful in so many ways. For example, with clients who are depressed, it can be a way to disrupt some of the patterns of depression. Kind of like when you shake up an etch-a-sketch.
People experiencing depression can often feel tired, stuck and immobile. Taking a walk can greatly benefit clients experiencing this aspect of depression. Thus, I may ask the client if they would like to make use of their therapy by talking and walking together.
Engaging in this manner fosters a multi-sensory experience in therapy. This can be helpful for trauma survivors because trauma gets stored in the body. Creative approaches activate multiple areas of the brain. Working creatively can help release the stressful memories in a safe, manageable way.
Moreover, creative approaches can help to make therapy feel more tangible. If one is feeling overwhelmed this can be a great way to start feeling more grounded. If talking feels too abstract or unproductive, we can create a physical representation of the work we are doing in therapy.
Finally, this open-minded approach can also be helpful for people who are first finding their way to therapy. For those who aren’t sure how they feel about “the whole therapy thing.” Meeting outside, doodling, or using a little humor can help therapy feel more accessible. It can also make the very real, deep, meaningful work of therapy feel a whole lot less intimidating.
Shouldn’t that be the goal, anyways?