Ritual, story-telling, music and dance is inclusive to most cultures, yet often under-utilized in psychological practices. For the majority of the South African population, psychology as an individual endeavor is foreign and viewed with suspicion due to the Western-influenced training and also positivistic and discriminatory past of psychology. Using creative expressive art therapy can however equip the psychologist to connect with clients who do not want to or cannot express their traumatic experiences in words. 

Creative expressive art therapies are informed by the seminal work of people such as Sally Atkins, Stephen and Ellen Levine, Paoli Knill, Shaun McNiff and Cathy Malchiodi, to name but a few. Children and adults can be engaged in a process of actively, mindfully building their reality or worldview, through language, drama, music, dance, dream-work, drawing, painting and sculpting. As such, creative expressive art therapy is founded on sensory expression in combination with imagination.

Learning entails a sensory experience, combined with a mental activity and has a strong emotional componentand the same applies to dealing with trauma experiences. Such experiences can affect and impair sensory integration, cognitive functioning, and emotional responses that can manifest either as hyper-arousal or hypo-arousal and subsequently result in detached social relationships. Creative expressive art therapy can enable the individual to engage on a sensory level through a ‘language’ of imagination with traumatic experiences, using a modality that is comfortable to the individual or group. Imagination can be expressed in many ways and creative expressive art therapy is therefore an intermodal intervention, using what the client brings in the form of creative expression. The focus is therefore not on the end product, an outcome that is measured artistically, but on the process of engagement, of sensory connectedness and creative expressiveness.

Creative expressive art therapy can be applied from a non-directive approach to a very engaged interaction with the psychologist, depending on the intervention paradigm of the psychologist. Considering the context of South Africa with the need for brief therapeutic interventions, the principles of Strategic constructivist therapies such as Ericksonian Psychotherapy, impact therapy and Narrative therapy can therefore be applied in creative expressive art therapy. As such, the therapeutic intervention can be tailored to suit the context and needs of a client, group or a community.