Journal article Open Access


Dr. Saroj Kothari

Arts have consistently been part of life as well as healing throughout the history of humankind. Today, expressive therapies have an increasingly recognized role in mental health, rehabilitation and medicine. The expressive therapies are defined as the use of art, music, dance/movement drama, poetry/creative writing, play and sand play within the context of psychotherapy, counseling, rehabilitation or health care. Through the centuries, the healing nature of these expressive therapies has been primarily reported in anecdotes that describe a way of restoring wholeness to a person struggling with either mind or body illness. The Egyptians are reported to have encouraged people with mental illness to engage in artistic activity (Fleshman & Fryrear, 1981); the Greeks used drama and music for its reparative properties (Gladding, 1992); and the story of King Saul in the Bible describes music’s calming attributes. Later, in Europe during the Renaissance, English physician and writer Robert Burton theorized that imagination played a role in health and well-being, while Italian philosopher de feltre proposed that dance and Play was central to children’s healthy growth and development (Coughlin, 1990). The idea of using the arts as an adjunct to medical treatment emerged in the period from the late 1800s to the 1900s alongside the advent of psychiatry. For example, documented uses of music as therapy can be found following World War I when “miracle cures” were reported, resulting form reaching patients through music when they responded to nothing else. The creative arts therapies became more widely known during the 1930s and 1940s when psychotherapists and artists began to realize that self-expressions through nonverbal methods such as painting, music making, or movement/dance might be helpful for people with severe mental illness.

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