Essay Existential and Expressive Arts Therapy

Words: 1781
Pages: 8

Existential and Expressive Arts Therapy

Saré Gebhardt

GEXTH 5102.01

Karen Estrella

November 30, 2008

Sometime in the late eighties, Shaun McNiff, Sr. Kathleen Burke and I sat in a small pub in Cleveland, Ohio. It was after midnight when conversation turned to my writing project, this book. Sr. Kathleen asked, “What’s the title going to be?”
“Well,” I replied, “the working title is Existential Art Therapy.”
Shaun sighed. “Bruce, don’t be redundant. All art is existential.”
…I have thought often of Shaun’s admonition. He is right, all art is existential. Perhaps that is why the concepts…have held up as the world of health care has revolutionized, i.e., all art has to do with the basic human experience of life as it is.
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The concept behind the process also allows for possible explorations into other modalities. The concept of the “witness” is used also in authentic movement and psychodrama. It is possible, thus, to replace the visual art component to Allen’s process with other modalities that lend itself to the rest of her format. The use of music could be used during this time as well, either individually or as a group, with the therapist as the witness during the group process.
After the writing segment of Allen’s process, one could also choose instead of reading what they wrote, to spend time creating artwork in response. Or they could choose to take their writing and use it as a starting point for a dramatic piece to share with the group. Participants could also choose to write in the format of poetry and using this, create a drama piece around the poetry. These are a number of possibilities and could be continued to be mixed and matched for each session, giving it a fresh face but still being held with the same format and use of the expressive arts.
Furman discusses the congruence between poetry therapy and existential theory, “poetry helps writers make sense of their worlds; to put their own pain and suffering into perspective, and to find meaning in their lives” (Furman, 2003). He continues, “The creation of poetry is the giving of voice to the human experience. In this sense, the poet pays witness to the unfolding occurrence of life itself” (Furman, 2003). This