What is Expressive Arts Facilitation?
My journey into facilitating the expressive arts has been mostly experiential. I was lucky to be able to learn on the job.
Ten years ago, I had a vision of pushing an “art cart” in a hospital. After a year of running my own community art studio for adults with acquired brain injuries, I had the rare opportunity to work in a well-funded art studio program for Canadian veterans. So indeed, my art cart did materialize! And, my art cart became my beloved traveling companion for nine years!
On a personal level, I also spend time experientially immersed in expressive dancing, drawing, collaging, writing and painting. I love the healing power of the creative process, and I am devoted to creating something new every day.
Last year for example, I started a daily intuitive mandala practice to heal my adrenals after many years of intense work facilitating the expressive arts non-stop – in my full-time job, online, and on evenings and weekends in my community!
I created my online business, Expressive Art Workshops on evenings and weekends while working full-time as an arts facilitator in healthcare.
Support for Expressive Arts Facilitators
I left my government-funded art studio work in 2015 to build my online teaching practice. Just recently, upon earning my designation as a REACE, I felt inspired to create a larger community of support for expressive arts facilitators than I can provide. Because I share my facilitation experiences extensively on my website, I get many questions from people asking me how to facilitate the expressive arts, what kind of education is required, how to work with different populations, etc.
In order to provide diverse answers outside of my own experience, I started a Facebook group called, “Expressive Arts Facilitation.” The sharing of resources on the group is generous and inspiring. I love witnessing facilitators, artists and therapists of all cultures and educational backgrounds respectfully connecting online, sharing ideas non-hierarchically, sorting out facilitation issues, and defining the line between facilitation and therapy.
An expressive arts facilitator designs and initiates spontaneous, expressive, creative processes for people and may or may not be trained as a therapist. Expressive Arts Facilitators might be intuitive/expressive artists, counsellors, academics, psychologists, social workers, and other helping professionals, such as non-profit workers and volunteers.
The Art is the Therapy
The act of creating spontaneously is therapeutic in itself as it encourages honest self-expression that might have been restricted by social judgment in the past. The expressive arts also facilitate a natural emotional release, and interrupts stuck patterns of thought by introducing new possibilities.
Expressive Arts Facilitators, however, do not offer therapy. Facilitators can invite the client's personal responses to their expressive art by providing encouraging, accepting and affirming space for honest self-expression.
The aim of the expressive arts facilitator is to provide a caring and accepting space for people to experiment with spontaneous art, poetry, dance, sculpture, music and more. Critiques are never made about the aesthetics of the art. Participants are invited to express their honest thoughts and emotions as they relate to their creative self-expression in an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance.
What is an Art Therapist?
Art therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy. They are knowledgeable about human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art. They use art in treatment, assessment and research, and provide consultations to allied professionals.
Art therapists work with people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, groups and communities. They provide services, individually and as part of clinical teams, in settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions; community outreach programs; wellness centers; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; open studios and independent practices. Cited from the Art Therapy Blog.
What is an Expressive Arts Therapist?
An Expressive Arts Therapist has similar academic training as an Art Therapist, but they offer a multi-modal approach – often including music, drama and dance, as well as art and writing within a therapy session.
Where Can I Ask Questions about Therapy Schools?
If you would like to ask questions about art therapy education, this is a good Facebook group to join: Art Therapy Network for Continuing Education.
If you would like to ask questions about Expressive Arts Therapy Education, this is a good Facebook group to join: Expressive Arts Therapy.
No, you do not need a designation to facilitate expressive/intuitive/spontaneous creative processes for people. Some expressive arts facilitators are artists who have an innate and experienced sense of how to support people to self-express creatively. Some come to this work as intuitive healers and wise souls.
However, you can choose to partake in Expressive Arts facilitation training, and there are many certificate programs available. And, you can document your unique combination of experience and education, and apply to become a Registered Expressive Arts Consultant Educator through the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association. The guidelines for becoming designated as a REACE are HERE.
Is it Safe to Facilitate the Expressive Arts without Therapy Training?
We are all welcome to facilitate spontaneous art processes that invite authentic self-expression. Creating honestly and expressively is a natural human process, and is inherently therapeutic.
In my sense, therapists and facilitators alike all bring something valuable to the expressive arts field. And when unhealed trauma (which is sometimes a fear) arises within a creative expression group a client can always be referred on to a therapist who has more tools and training to support them.
However, because emotional healing is a natural human process, often when unconscious material comes up for a normal release through spontaneous creative expression, no diagnosis or referral is needed.
What Kinds of Academic Training Should I Pursue to Facilitate the Expressive Arts?
Many people ask me about the types of formal education they should pursue in order to be "allowed" to facilitate art for other people. We are all welcome to express and facilitate spontaneous and authentic creativity for others. Art is a universal way to express our unique personhood. Creativity is our birthright.
Based on my own experiences of finding my way intuitively, I always say to people who want to give to others through their creative nature, "Your originality will lead you to the right books, trainings and experiences that you need in order to express your gifts fully."
While I feel great respect for the therapeutic standards of care elucidated in formal academic education, I also see that what we love is our particular and personal form of genius. Structured education can only contribute to our genius when it supports us to express our uniqueness, and originate our own path.
How Did You Become an Expressive Arts Facilitator?
I started out as an expressive arts facilitator – ten years ago – by intuitively creating an expressive art studio program for adults with acquired brain injuries. After that, I worked in Canada's largest therapeutic art studio for adults at the end of life with dementia and/or physical and mental challenges for 9 years. While I am now a counsellor, I have logged over 11,000 direct client art therapy hours in the studio, and I feel blessed to have worked with hundreds of clients over the years from all walks of life in this creative capacity.
I presently live and work as a counsellor in Nelson, British Columbia. I facilitate a wide variety of expressive/spontaneous arts courses online via my website Expressive Art Workshops. I offer lots of free resources for arts facilitators. I also welcome you to visit my expressive arts educational platform HERE to try a free course that shows you how expressive journaling can look. I have also written two facilitator guidebooks HERE.
In 2014, I was part of a collective of arts facilitators and art therapists that hosted monthly "pop-up" spontaneous creativity workshops in Vancouver, Canada.
We provided spontaneous art making opportunities for all ages in various community settings. We supplied a wide range of creative materials such as textiles, collage papers, paint, recycled items, and objects from nature to encourage freedom of self-expression.
We encouraged self-expression without the requirement of a specific end product. Loose guidelines were provided and spontaneous experimentation was encouraged.
Creating together on individual and collective art projects offered a warm and inviting atmosphere to self-express in community and individually. In contrast to the perception of art as elite and expensive, we offered art opportunities as a natural expressive outlet for all.
Click HERE for many more photographs of these community workshops!
What is the Purpose of Your Expressive Arts Facilitation Group on Facebook?
Daily, I receive email queries about how to facilitate the expressive arts. My aim in creating and moderating this support group for Expressive Arts Facilitators is to provide many more answers to facilitation questions than I have the time or the knowledge to provide. I invite all facilitators and therapists who want to respectfully "cross-pollinate" and gather many more ideas than we possibly could think of when working alone.
How Can I Join?