Creative Arts Therapies

By Hod Orkibi, Ph.D.

Creative arts therapists are credentialed healthcare professionals who have completed extensive academic education and clinical training in using the creative and expressive process of active art making and its outcome to ameliorate disabilities and illnesses and optimize health and well-being within a therapeutic relationship. Creative arts therapists work with clients of all ages, with individuals, dyads, families, and groups across a variety of medical, rehabilitative, educational, and community settings. The creative arts therapies are especially valuable for clients who have difficulties expressing themselves in words alone.

Creative arts therapists in the US hold professional credentials and many have state licenses within their profession or as counselors and mental health professionals.

Rapidly accumulating research has underscored the effectiveness of creative arts therapies interventions in many areas, including trauma, depression, anxiety, and interpersonal difficulties.

The professional specializations are art therapy, dance movement therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, poetry therapy and bibliotherapy, and psychodrama.

Art Therapy uses a spectrum of 2- and 3- dimensional structured and unstructured visual art media (e.g., pencils, paints, chalk, crayons, found objects, clay, fabrics, etc.), within a psychotherapeutic relationship with an art therapist. The art therapist facilitates non-verbal and verbal self-expression and reflection through the process of art making and the resulting artwork.

Dance Movement Therapy employs dance and movement as a way into and a means of therapy, within a psychotherapeutic relationship, with the goal of promoting physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual integration of individuals. It is based on the premise of the interconnection of body and mind.

Drama Therapy involves the intentional use of drama and theater processes such as embodiment, dramatic projection, improvisation, role-play, and performance to facilitate physiological, psychological, and social change.

Music Therapy uses music and its properties (e.g., melody, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, pitch), as well as song writing, improvisation, and singing within a therapeutic relationship to optimize clients’ quality of life and improve their physical, social, communicative, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health and well-being. Music therapy can involve active music making and/or receptive music listening, according to the client’s needs.

Poetry/ Bibliotherapy uses written language, poetry writing and reading, expressive writing, journal writing, as well as story writing and reading within a therapeutic relationship.

Psychodrama uses guided role-play and specific techniques to explore clients’ personal and interpersonal problems and possible solutions. Psychodrama offers clients a “fail-safe” reality where feelings, thoughts, and behaviors can be explored and insights can be gained into past issues, present challenges, and future possibilities.

Note: whereas drama therapy focuses on metaphorical dramatic enactments, classical psychodrama is more reality-based. However, some contemporary variations in psychodrama practice involve working with metaphors, thus blurring the boundaries between the two approaches.

Related Organizations

National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations:

American Art Therapy Association:

American Music Therapy Association:

National Association for Poetry Therapy:

American Dance Therapy Association:

North American Drama Therapy Association:

American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama: