In the same way that one person may be a visual learner, and another more tactile, we all express ourselves in differing manners. For many individuals practicing traditional talk therapy, verbal communication only brushes the surface of what is being felt internally. This is because most words are concrete; simply put, words have definitions and there is little room for interpretation. When most of us think about communication, we think about conversations as verbal exchanges. But what if there is no word to describe an emotion or feeling?
Just as teachers and parents adapt their teaching styles to cater to each unique child, therapists may have to modify the method with which they help their client to communicate emotions. Trying to coax an introverted and quiet person to verbally express what they are feeling, may be like trying to force a child to learn in a way that doesn’t come naturally for them, therefore, becoming less effective. Helping this timid client to express emotion in ways that feel more natural like drawing a picture or dancing encourages the client to become more in-tuned with their own emotions, which will help them to better communicate their needs and desires to others.
Expressive therapy allows individuals to establish an important connection to themselves, and to their therapists. Incorporating the mind, body and the spirit is an integral aspect of this model, and can be obtained with the use of varying modalities in treatment including Movement Therapy, Art Therapy and Psychodrama. All of these modalities have proven very successful with the eating disordered population. Program Director for EDCD, Trish O’Donnell, explains that each of these methods is designed to encourage self-direction through choice-making, forming a connection to themselves, their bodies, and others, and taking risks in order to generate change.