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 plastic and visual art media (e.g., paint, chalk, crayons, and sculpture), the creative process, and the resulting artwork as its primary mode of expression and communication within a psychotherapeutic relationship.

Dance Movement Therapy is based on the holistic premise that mind, body, and spirit are interconnected. Movement, as the core component of dance, is used within a psychotherapeutic relationship to promote emotional, cognitive, social, and physical integration of individuals.

Drama Therapy uses theatrical techniques in psychotherapy, such as role-play, projective play, myth, ritual, storytelling, purposeful improvisation, and performance.

Music Therapy uses music within a therapeutic relationship, including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music.

Poetry Therapy and Bibliotherapy uses written language, poetry writing and reading, as well as story writing and reading in psychotherapy.

Psychodrama uses guided role-play to work on 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: