My counselling is based on the person centred approach which means that I am client led and I believe that each individual has resources within themselves to find their own answers. However, there are times when a client needs guidance along their journey or they find it difficult to express their feelings. An effective counselling tool I use with my clients is creative therapy. This blog post will look at what is creative therapy and what are the ways I use it with my clients.
What is creative therapy?
Creative therapy is a combination of using visual imagery, therapy games, visualisation, expressive writing and art therapy. When a client is upset or confused they often can find that they are unable to describe their experience or express their feelings. Using this creative approach allows clients to explore their inner self in a different way. Creative therapy gives them the opportunity to explore this at their own pace and often at a deeper level than they would achieve with the non-directive counselling approach.
When do I use creative therapy?
I started using creative therapy when I was training to be a counsellor. I was inspired by my course leader who showed us how you could use objects, such as pebbles and worry dolls. I have continued to use objects and have slowly introduced other creative ideas. I only use creative therapy with a client’s permission. The client needs to be comfortable using it and open to their feelings being explored in a visual way. Creative therapy helps clients self-express their in ways they never thought could be possible. I usually suggest a couple of ways we could work and the client usually selects what feels right for them.
What methods I use:
Expressive writing is using journals, poetry or creative stories to allow clients to express their feelings onto paper. Often our thoughts do not match our feelings. Writing enables clients to untangle the mixed up thoughts and can help them see more clearly and externalise those feelings. Clients who write journals about their emotions often find that they continue to use this method at home which can continue to help them sort out unresolved feelings of grief or anger or help them manage different stages of stress.
Another powerful way of expressive writing is writing an unsent letter. This can help clients’ process thoughts and feelings that are left unsaid allowing them to process their emotions and help them find a way of coping with unwanted emotions. To find out more about this have a look here.
When I worked and lived in Northern Uganda I worked with the children soldiers who had witnessed traumatic events. As they were unable to express their feelings we started encouraging them to draw. They were powerful drawings expressing their fears, anger and isolation. This has led me to transfer these skills I learnt with my clients. When my clients feel distanced from their feelings or are too upset to talk about their painful experiences, art allows them to express their feelings. Clients interpret their drawings in their own way which leads them to link what they have drawn relates to their feelings and experiences. This helps them find their own ways of dealing with their issues.
Use of stones and other objects allows the client to choose objects that represent people connected with the issue or their feelings. Clients usually do this in silence. I will observe how they touch or place their objects and reflect these observations back to the client. This often leads the client to explore what the relationships between the objects giving them insight to what they represent. After the clients have placed their objects, clients often see their problems in a different way and this leads to client exploring their feelings. When we have finished, I always ask the client if they would like to take a photo and tidy the stones or objects away themselves.
Finally…..Creative therapy helps clients express themselves in another way. It needs little preparation but you do need have the materials or objects with you at all times so they are available when you need them.