Guest Post by Elena Clamen, LMHC
There can be so much uncertainty, disappointment and waiting while on an infertility journey. Some of the feelings may include: frustration, grief, loss, anger, sadness, shame, and isolation.
Anyone who has experienced infertility has most likely started to compile their own personal toolkit of resources to help them cope with their unique circumstances. One less-talked about, yet powerful, tool is expressive arts therapy.
In a study of 21 women undergoing fertility treatment, expressive arts therapy was found to increase positive mood, increase feelings of self-efficacy, and relieve stress. All of these positive emotions are beneficial to quality of life and coping.
What is expressive arts therapy?
Expressive arts therapy provides a way to process your journey through visual arts, creative writing, dance/movement, music and drama. The creative process can help to facilitate healing and bring clarity and meaning to life experiences. Engaging in creative activities can increase self awareness and encourage individuals to look at things in a different way. Creative activities can also be empowering by offering time to feel in control.
Some of the many benefits include:
● Promotes comfort, strength & acceptance
● Allows images/creative expression to act as a container for emotions
● Helps to clarify core values
● Explores self-esteem, identity & body image
● Transforms feelings & nurtures emotional growth
● Reduces stress & strengthens immune system
● Reduces anxiety & depression
Expressive arts therapy, under the guidance of a licensed mental health counselor/expressive arts therapist, combines creative expression and verbal processing. These creative techniques can help individuals explore feelings that are trapped under the emotional burden of fertility treatments. It is important to note that no artistic ability is required to benefit from this powerful creative outlet.
Here are some ways to incorporate creativity & the use of imagination into your life:
An art journal is very similar to a written journal, but it incorporates colors, designs, images and words to express thoughts and emotions. You can use prompts/themes to express what you are feeling in the moment. Some prompts might include creating a safe place, or journaling about what makes you happy.
A vision board, using images, photos and words can help you create a visual representation of hopes and goals. Many people choose to use vision boards during life transitions or at the beginning of a new year.
It’s so easy to incorporate photography into our daily lives! Start by simply walking around your neighborhood, taking photos along the way. You might be surprised to notice colors or themes in your images.
Music & Movement
Listening to your favorite songs and dancing around your room can help you to be more present and grounded. You might even do a little drawing after to deepen the experience. You can also put together a ‘playlist of songs’ that may instill peaceful and positive memories.
I invite you to check out an upcoming workshop entitled Move to Create: Art, Yoga & Fertility, which I am co-facilitating with my talented colleague Kerry Hinds.
Elena Clamen is an Expressive Arts Therapist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor specializing in fertility support. She is a long-time board member of Resolve New England. Feel free to contact Elena for more information.