There is much scholarly and clinical research on expressive therapy’s benefits and effectiveness, in a broad sense and specified via genre. Music, poetry and visual art all have unique attributes and therapeutic benefits.
Poetry is an introspective activity; “The process faces one with oneself” (Bolton, 118). It offers a security that speech does not, as—during the writing process—there is only the writer and paper. The hand seems to articulate things that the mouth feels incapable of, so the writer accesses and considers thoughts and feelings that were unavailable before.
Aligned with Meaning Reconstruction Theory, the writing of poetry generates new meanings about trauma; “it organizes and reestablishes the existential chaos within” (Barak, 938-9). Poetic expression allows a writer to embody complex or uncomfortable emotions with abstract concepts and images.
Poetry, being a use of language (which is logical, left brain) and art (which is expressive, right brain) simultaneously grants access to a new space where these difficult feelings are embodied and validated.
Visual art also allows for symbolic representations of feelings. Music does the same, but in a way that is less specified and reflective. There is much reason to believe that music therapy helps to treat PTSD, especially in alleviating the symptoms of intrusion and negative cognition.
Music therapy, particularly singing, “engages the person, physically, emotionally and neurologically” (Sullivan, 33). Music can increase circulation and lung performance, encourage patients to express themselves more fully, normalize behavior, relax and empower patients to be autonomous.
“In the creative process, fear and shame fade away and we reconnect with our [true] Selves and each other,” bringing us closer to a Higher Power (Johnson, 301). The creative modes supply an “aesthetic distance” needed to express the shameful and complex inner conflicts of addiction so that transformation can happen (307).