Art therapists have emphasized the therapeutic effects of self-expression through art. However, the art in art therapy typically includes the visual arts (e.g., painting or drawing), while linguistic expressions, especially writing, are more often considered important in expressive arts therapies.
Art therapy can be an integrative approach by embracing the multisensory and multimodal nature of human expression. If we endeavor to see and hear people as they express themselves, we must honor both their artistic and linguistic “voices.”
Expressive writing which involves verbally expressing one’s honest thoughts and feelings about the lived experience through writing. It comes in many forms, such as freewriting in journals, life stories, note-taking, or poetry.
“Written in the author’s own voice, expressive writing creates bridges between thought and feeling, reason and intuition, idea and action” (Adams, 2013, p. ix).
Authors who advocate for expressive writing say that a desire to express oneself through writing is as natural and universal as the need to connect and to be understood and that not honoring that need can be as detrimental to our well-being as suppressing our emotions.
There is considerable research evidence about the benefits of expressive writing for emotional well-being.
Starting in the 1980s, psychology researcher Pennebaker developed his “expressive writing” paradigm as a tool to investigate the positive effects of written emotional expression on health and psychological well-being (DeSalvo, 2000).
Since then, hundreds of research studies have revealed the benefits of expressing one’s emotions, feelings, and self-reflections through open and honest writing. Expressive writing has healing benefits because it increases self-understanding and insight.