PsychBeat | All You Need To Know About Expressive Arts Therapy


PsychBeat is a monthly column by Shruti Venkatesh which intends to look at innovative therapies that can be used to counter mental health issues.

Expressive Arts Therapy (EAT), a form of therapy which is relatively new in its formation but is rapidly gaining popularity, combines psychology and various arts (movement, drawing, painting, sculpting, music, writing, sound, and improvisation) to promote emotional growth and healing.

“Basic art, movement, dance, clay, toys, drama and other artistic modalities are carried out in a non-competitive and non-judgmental manner so that an individual is able to listen to the inner messages, feelings and emotions that are stored in the body and mind.”, says Bhaktiveda Dhaul, Founder of Pranaah and Expressive Arts Therapist. EAT facilitates change by using different art forms as therapeutic instruments. Journaling, storytelling, reading literature and poetry, and making life maps, videos, finger painting and memory books are other forms of EAT. It is important to understand that Expressive Arts Therapy focuses on self-discovery and emotional growth and not on perfecting the concerned art form.

Expressive Arts Therapy can be used on people from all age groups, individually as well as in groups. Children can benefit greatly from Expressive Arts Therapy. Namrata Jain, Psychologist, Wellness Coach and Expressive Arts Therapist, says “Often children don’t have the language skills to verbalize their problems. Expressive Arts Therapy taps into the right brain nodules where the language of images, ideas, and creative expression exist. EAT awakens a child’s imagination and creativity to help them discover who he/she is and how to engage his senses. EAT helps children know more of themselves which in turn helps them know others around them and at large becoming more humble, respectful and mature as adults.”

EAT also helps geriatric clients to stay involved and connected with their families. As Dhaul suggests, “Expressive art therapy can help the geriatric population by giving them a sense of belonging and inner peace as the activities are fun and stress releasing which improves mood and gets out the free inner child.” This form of therapy has been implemented in many countries now.

Some of the disorders which can use EAT as a treatment strategy includes Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), developmental disabilities, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and chronic medial illnesses. The approach is described as “integrative” when different art techniques are intentionally used in combination with traditional medicines to promote improved health.

Image credit: Unsplash


Much of the core of EAT is focused on the concept of self-exploration and creation. People have the opportunity to explore themselves differently through the use of art and this proves to be a catalyst for the therapeutic process. Simple tasks like painting and movement help people recapitulate their past and engage in catharsis and working together with your expressive arts therapist also helps in the faster resolution of conflicts.

Creativity plays a key role as well in EAT as it is assumed that any form of art and its creation arises from the emotional depth of a person. This allows for creativity to become an outlet for the expression of traumas, troubles and emotional as well as behavioral issues. The central idea is the process and journey of creation and not the final result which helps to gain clarity in communicating one’s inner feelings without verbal barriers. The results are not particularly left for interpretation from the therapist but instead clients are encouraged to find personal meanings in their creations, hence the focus on self-discovery and exploration.

Nirali Rajgor, an aspiring Expressive Arts therapist, student of Psychology and trained dancer for 10 years, explains, “Dance and other such art forms are extremely beneficial for both one’s physical and mental health. It teaches you how to be comfortable with your own body. As they are expressive forms, those who feel they lack verbal communication skills find it a beautiful way to express, to get their emotions out and show it to the world. This makes it very adaptable for therapeutic purposes. EAT is an evolving field where there is so much scope for improvement and research. I am very hopeful of its success and truly believe that EAT can lead to a renewed self-discovery in people.”

Like any other therapy, EAT too has its own limitations. Many people find it difficult to break out of their shells and engage in art forms like dance, music or poetry. Therapists experience a large amount of resistance from participants because they believe that they are not creative and have never been, hence, a therapy such as EAT may not benefit them. There is also a misconception that it is necessary to produce something artistic as a result of the sessions which makes clients hesitate opting for EAT. On the other hand, there are participants who may in fact have prior experience in certain art forms like painting which is inhibitory to the therapeutic process as the participant refuses to budge from their learned practices.

Although expressive modalities have gained increasing popularity and acceptance in the recent years, there is still plenty of research left to be done in terms of the different applications and types of groups it can be applied to. However, mental health professionals have recognized the many qualitative benefits which EAT provides. This is reflected upon by Dhaul, who says, “Expressive Art Therapy helps in understanding what is important and what issues need to be addressed. Awareness is the first step to recovery and that is what the power of nonverbal activities carried out in EAT can bring up for a person.”


1. Expressive Arts Therapy. (2017, July 27). Good Therapy.

2. Dunphy, K., Mullane, S., and Jacobsson, M. (2013), The effectiveness of expressive arts therapies: A review of the literature. Melbourne: PACFA.

3. Malchiodi, C. (2014, June 30). Creative Arts Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapy. Psychology Today.

4. Bhaktiveda Dhaul, Founder of Pranaah and Expressive Arts Therapist.

5. Namrata Jain, Psychologist, Wellness Coach and Expressive Arts Therapist. Jain has recently started a program called Small Steps… Big Leaps which focuses on children and imparting life skills.

Shruti Venkatesh is the National Lead (Mental Health) at One Future Collective.

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Bhima Koregaon: A History and a Report


The Battle at Bhima Koregaon (1818)

The chain of events that led to the raids under scrutiny began with the outbreak of violence on members of the Dalit community at a public meeting held on December 31, 2017, in Pune to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the battle at Bhima Koregaon.

The battle at Bhima Koregaon was fought on 1st January 1818, between the British East India Company forces and the Maratha army of Peshwa Baji Rao II. The commemoration is in lieu of the 22 Mahar soldiers who were killed in battle fighting for the Company. The Mahars are a traditionally stigmatised class of people. They faced acute discrimination as untouchables in the lower rungs of the caste system prevalent in nineteenth century India.  The Bhima Koregaon battle holds special significance for the Dalit community since it effectively did away with the already diminishing power of the Marathas against the Company.  It has been an important marker for Dalit pride.

The Violence at Bhima Koregaon (2018)

This year the trouble began even before the 200th celebrations when several right wing groups denounced the same as being anti-national and casteist. They contended that the celebration was organized to defame the Peshwas by calling them oppressors of the Dalit community. Furthermore, on 29th December 2017, the tombstone of Govind Gopal Mahar (Gaikwad) was desecrated. Gaikwad was a Dalit wrestler who defied the death threats issued by the British to perform the last rites of the slain and mutilated Sambhaji, son of the great emperor Shivaji. Although he was put to death by the British, he became a prominent figure of Dalit pride. This created further strife between the right wing Marathas and the Dalit community.

During the 200th celebrations on 1st January 2018, incidents of violence broke out resulting in the death of one civilian. The communal undercurrents so begun, took an unpleasant turn with an initial FIR naming over 49 individuals as perpetrators of the violence at Bhima Koregaon. Subsequently, Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of the Dalit rights activist and legal luminary Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and the leader of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh named Sambhaji Bhide, founder of the Shivpratishthan Sanghatana and Milind Ekbote, president of the Samasta Hindu Aghadi as the masterminds behind the violence. What followed was a deluge of FIR’s being registered across the state and a statewide crackdown on Dalit youth and prominent persons in lieu of the Bhima Koregaon violence. Bandhs were called and over the course of the year, riots broke out in several parts of Maharashtra.

Live Law

The Raids and Arrests

The bubbling turmoil from the Bhima Koregaon protest (which had already created chaos as evinced by the consecutive bandhs in the state) snowballed into nationwide ire when the police forces raided the houses and offices of several  human rights and civil liberties lawyers, activists and intellectuals across the country.

The targets of the raids were:

  • Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, National Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties in Faridabad,
  • Advocates Arun Ferreira and Susan Abraham in Mumbai,
  • Journalists KV Kumaranath and Kranthi Tekula in Hyderabad,
  • Dr. Anand Teltumbde, General Secretary of the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, in Goa
  • Tribal activist Father Stan Swamy, in Jharkhand,
  • Writer and poet, Varavara Rao along with his two daughters in Hyderabad,
  • Gautam Navlakha, Founder of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights in Delhi,
  • Journalists KV Kumaranath and Kranthi Tekula in Hyderabad,
  • Professor Satyanarayana of the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad, and
  • Writer Vernon Gonsalves in Mumbai.

Of these, the police arrested Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, and Varavara Rao.  The arrests were made in an investigation concerning a crackdown of alleged Maoist links. There are allegations that those arrested allegedly funded the Elgar Parishad organization which organized a conclave where incendiary speeches designed to instigate violence were made a day before the 200th anniversary celebrations of Bhima Koregaon. There have been insinuations of a plot adrift to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and entire communities have come together to condemn the silencing of dissenting voices and the persecution of individuals who speak up for marginalised sections of society.

The violence at Bhima Koragaon has set in motion an entire series of unpleasant events which challenge the very core of life and law in the country. What began as a conflict in diametrically differing communal views of a historic battle mushroomed into a caste conflict before escalating into a full scale blowout on speech, freedom and choice in the country. The entire chain of events presents a grim picture for political freedom and ideological dissent in India.

Priyanshi Vakharia is a Research Associate (Legal Reform) at One Future Collective.

Featured image: Mid Day

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Kerala Floods: On Environmental Concerns and Foresight


The past month saw lakhs of people in Kerala continue to take shelter at the 3,000 plus relief camps, the horrific flood situation in the state has taken away the lives of over 357 women, children and men. The number of affected animals is obviously not known. Contrary to predictions and monsoon trends in the South in the past few years, the downpour was 42.17 per cent more than the normal trend — 2,394.1 mm of rainfall as against the normal of 1,701.4 mm from June 1 to August 22. This disaster has been compared to the 1924 floods — 3,368 mm water poured from the skywhere most parts of Kerala were submerged. It has become one of the greatest disasters Kerala has faced in almost a century.

The rainfall was continuous, unprecedented and the water levels have been abnormally high but can this disaster in Kerala entirely be blamed on climate change and the uncertainty of nature? Those lobbying against environmental issues would like it to be the case, but I’m afraid it isn’t entirely so. Nor is it the wrath of a certain God, as certain Twitter users consider it to be. We can owe most of the damage caused to the reckless nature of man and more specifically in this case – to the poor mismanagement of land and rivers.

A substantial amount of damage could have been reduced and controlled had there been periodical release of water from the dams in Kerala. Every dam has something called a ‘rule curve’, which specifies exactly how much water is to be released when the reservoir reaches certain levels. Commenting on the lack of foresight of state authorities, a senior official accepted that the crisis could have been contained if water was gradually released from the dams. Water was released from around 30 dams this monsoon – adding to the already high levels of water in the State – only when the maximum levels were reached.  In fact, the floodgates of Idukki Dam, Asia’s largest, were opened for the first time this monsoon. The Print while reporting the poor mismanagement of land, rivers and dams in the state wrote: “It is like you are filling a bucket with water. If there is a narrow hole in it, the water will flow out of it as long its inflow is steady. But if there is a sudden rush of water, it will spill over the rim. That is exactly what happened,” explained a government official who wished to remain anonymous.”

Image credit: Rejimon Kuttappan / DownToEarth

The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, also known as the Gadgil Committee, in its report submitted to the Government of Kerala in 2011 marked most of the flood-hit districts in Kerala, including Idukki and Wayanand, as ecologically sensitive. The Kerala Government rejected the report terming the Committee’s recommendations as “impracticable”. The Gagdil Committee was appointed to provide recommendations for the protection of the Western Ghats. The report had identified the entire Western Ghat area as ecologically sensitive. Different regions were assigned 3 different levels of eco sensitivity but none of the States agreed to the recommendations. A new Committee, the Kasturirangan Committee, was formed to analyse the Gadgil Report. Out of the 1,29,037 square km boundary  – recommended originally by the Gadgil Committee –  the Environment Ministry issued a draft notification, demarcating an area of only 56,285 sq km in the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive.

The report, among other things, recommended strong restrictions on mining and quarrying, use of land for non-forest purposes, wind energy projects, embargos on hydroelectric projects, new industries in ecologically sensitive regions. Kerala had objected to the proposed restrictions. Members of the panel have now commented that the implementation of the recommendations could have mitigated the impact of the rainfall. A majority of the affected districts have quarries – legal and illegal. Kerala, in all has more than 6000 quarries. The blasts in quarries, which create tremors, cause landscape changes leading to landslides. There were mudslides and landslides in 211 different places across the state. Majority of the deaths were caused due to these mudslides and landslides. Madhav Gadgil, while talking to The Indian Express said, “These are not just natural events. There are unjustified human interventions in natural processes which need to be stopped.”

Weeks after causing havoc in God’s Own Country, the monsoon has finally dispelled but its aftermath remains. As the water recedes and while the State is recovering and rebuilding itself, it is important to understand the underlying reasons that caused the flooding. Time and again nature has been trying to tell us – when man meddles too much with it, it will retaliate. Instead of outright dismissing recommendations that seem to be impractical, State authorities must work out a balance. Moving forward, the authorities must learn from mistakes, take action and rebuild the affected areas in consonance with nature – a good start would be to reconsider the Gadgil Report.

The High Court of Kerala has initiated suo moto proceedings to examine whether any negligence on the part of authorities in managing reservoir levels in dams contributed to recent floods in Kerala.

Shivangi Adani is a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective.

Featured image: Santhosh / The Better India

Kerala is still recovering. To donate to the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund, please click here.

Mapping and negotiating power

Uncuff India Episode 10: Dimensions of conflict and peace: visioning a utopian world

Uncuff India Episode 9: Civic space and dissent: A pathway to social justice