healing art and writing
expressive art and writing

What is Expressive Art?

Just as a good story comes to life in pictures, an important addition to healing writing is the use of imagery. The use of images and visualization to improve healing for those dealing with illness or injury was pioneered by 'positive thinking' oncologist Carl Simonton. His research, begun in the 1970's, discovered that recovery time for patients increased when art was used to express feelings of stressful body sensations. We may have seen examples of this kind of healing visualization: hand stitched quilts in chemotherapy settings, striking art made by children in Pediatric hospitals, stained glass in our places of devotion, our own urges to knit, sew, or color with crayons when we are overwhelmed with stress.

Now known as "expressive art," this kind of imagery is not seen as art therapy in the diagnostic sense, nor as formal art. As expressive artist Barbara Ganim notes,"…I hope that those of you who feel that you have no artistic training or skill will understand that this healing process is not about creating works of art, but rather, it is about creating art that works for you."

In her book Art and Healing: Using Expressive Art to Heal Your Body, Mind, and Spirit, Ganim tells us that art used to enhance healing shares the following characteristics:

  • Imagery is the original language of the (Right brain) body-mind
  • Art is the voice or expression of that language
  • Color, shape, form, line, and texture are the alphabet
  • Metaphor and symbol helps translate this language

She suggests the following steps (that spell the word ART) to begin to use expressive art as healing:

  • Access the images of stressful feelings and emotions by visualizing them;
  • Release these emotions and feelings by expressing the images through art;
  • Transform and 're-envision' the images of negative thoughts and painful emotions into positive and empowering images.

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