When I feel especially stressed out or anxious, something that helps me feel calmer is listening to music. No matter the type of music (i.e. pop, country, etc.), it all helps my mind focus on something else other than my anxious thoughts or stressors. Music is actually a fairly common method used to help relieve anxiety, stress and improve mood – but it isn’t the only creative activity that can help.

Being creative, in general, can have a lot of benefits on your mental health, such as “increasing positive emotions, helping to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improve the function of our immune systems.” Creative activities (dance, music, art, etc.) can also be used to treat certain conditions, both mental and physical, in the form of creative therapy. According to Medical News Today, “trained professionals can administer creative therapy to help people who are experiencing various emotional, mental, and/or physical issues” and helps the person “channel their thoughts and emotions through creative expression.”

The third week in March is National Creative Arts Therapy Week, in both the United States and Canada. This is a time where people, specifically those who specialize in creative art therapy, can spread the word about what it is, the different types, and the overall benefit of using creative arts therapy. There are many benefits of creative therapy, but some include:

  • Improving cognitive and sensorimotor functions
  • Enhancing social skills
  • Building emotional strength
  • Helping to resolve conflict

It is said that creative therapies are helpful if you have “difficulty putting thoughts or feelings into words” and can also be helpful with “addressing painful feelings or experiences, including that of past trauma.” Types of creative therapies include art therapy, music therapy, dance or movement therapy, and drama therapy. Some information about these types of therapy are down below:

Art Therapy: This involves using visual art materials, such as pens, pencils, paint, clay, etc. You can also use digital media, such as photos or video. With the help of a therapist, you can use these materials to express your thoughts, feelings, and/or experiences. Some people have found that art therapy helps with communicating how they feel, look at a problem in a new light, and understand themselves better.

Music Therapy: Similar to art therapy, you don’t have to have experience playing an instrument or knowledge of music to partake in music therapy. You may, alongside a therapist, listen to different types of music or play various instruments (generally easy to use) that will help you express how you are feeling.

Dance/Movement Therapy: This type of therapy involves using movement to help enhance a person’s emotional, social, cognitive, and physical well-being. Dance or movement therapy can help a person increase their self-esteem and body image, develop communication skills, and expand their overall movement patterns.   

Drama Therapy: According to the North American Drama Therapy Association, drama therapy is defined as the “intentional use of drama and/or theater processes to achieve therapeutic goals.” The purpose of this therapy is help people share their thoughts and feelings and have a platform to use their imagination, which can be done through improv, storytelling, or theater-based games.

Creative therapy is generally defined as receiving treatment by a licensed therapist through the implementation of art-based activities, such as dance, music, poetry/writing, drawing, theater and so on. It is flexible, in order to meet the needs of the individual, and is for all ages to help with various emotional, physical, or mental health needs.

Staff Blogger: Mollie Clupper

Mollie Clupper works for MHA as a Communications and Support Specialist. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with loved ones.