Article was written by, Lacie Braun, LMHC.
Markers and paper, songs, poetry, all share something. They are tools in a new form of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) known as creative expression.
Creative expression, or process-focused creativity that expresses emotions, including art-making, movement, music, and poetry, is an innovative approach being rapidly adopted in building kids’ coping skills.
In the US alone, 35 million kids experience some form of a traumatic event before their 18th birthday. While most will be able to recover from these distressing experiences, many will not and will suffer life-long impacts such as disrupted neurodevelopment, 3 times higher risk of depression, 20 years lower life expectancy, and social, emotional and cognitive impairments.
Thankfully, as our understanding of mental health grows, successful approaches to healing are being recognized and are now available to help in any person’s (young or old) journey to wholeness.
Creative expression is an effective practice because of its integrative approach to healing. It uses more than the traditional cognitive behavioral therapy method and incorporates the brain and body for emotion processing. This allows for a greater depth of self-discovery and expression, which leads to stronger self-awareness, personal resilience, and relationship skills.
Here are some exciting benefits of creative expression:
- It provides a non-threatening way to access, identify, and explore complex emotions
- It reduces physiological symptoms of stress
- It helps kids to express and externalize traumatic events
- It teaches kids how to self-regulate
- It increases self-awareness and social awareness
- It provides opportunities for kids to feel self-sufficient and in control
Beyond these therapeutic benefits, creative expression is something everyone can benefit from as it fosters play and imagination, which lead to increased problem-solving and motor skills and deeper relationships.
Bringing creative expression activities into a classroom or inside a hospital waiting room can promote kids’ sense of wellbeing, increase their ability to connect, and provide moments of carefree play – something everyone can use from time to time.
So, bring some markers and paper with you next time you’re working with kids and allow the power of creativity to turn pain into possibility.
About the Author: Lacie Braun is a Licensed Mental Health Therapist in Seattle, WA who serves as a Curriculum and Training Development Consultant with Art with Heart. Find out more at www.artwithheart.org.
- Cathy Malchiodi PhD., 2012, Trauma-Informed Expressive Arts Therapy: Tapping the arts’ powers as trauma intervention, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/arts-and-health/201203/trauma-informed-expressive-arts-therapy
- Swedish Hospital, December 02, 2016, Creative expression programs, https://www.swedish.org/blog/2016/12/creative-expression-programs
- Renee Fabian, Healthline, Healing Invisible Wounds: Art Therapy and PTSD: Coloring has especially become instrumental as I recover from PTSD, https://www.healthline.com/health/art-therapy-for-ptsd#6
- Asa Don Brown, 2012, Psychological Benefits of Art Therapy, https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/psychological-benefits-of-art-therapy