Talking louder and prouder about the help we need - Alana Perri

Over the last four years, I have had the honour and privilege of facilitating Expressive Arts Therapy group-sessions through my coordinated practicums with the Centre of Expressive Arts Therapy Education (CREATE) as well as, through my personal operations as an Expressive Arts Therapy Practitioner (APexatp). For those who aren’t familiar with Expressive Arts Therapy (EXAT), it is the intermodal use of art-forms as a therapeutic process (as defined by ME!).

I have a deep passion for EXAT and I am compelled to make change. I have first-hand experience within the EXAT world, and can honestly say that this is a vital component of human health that is being under-utilized in the Ontario health care system. There is an imbalance in regards to who is granted access to this crucial resource of human health; and I stand by Shaun McNiff when he says “we need nothing less than a revolution in the way we approach healing and art-making”.

In my experience, I have witnessed the immediate effectiveness of EXAT, personally and through client feedback. Participants felt relieved of stress, general mood enhancement, enhanced overall well-being, and a better understanding of the struggles of everyday life after each session. Studies done by Stuckey & Nobel proved the medical benefits of engaging the arts with healthcare and concluded some outstanding results including, “improved medical outcomes and trends toward reduced depression and hemodialysis parameters of patients living with hemodialysis that engaged in visual arts activities” and “improvements in quality of life, shoulder range of motion, and body image in patients living with breast cancer that engaged in movement based creative expression”. Therefore, the focus of my research is generated around the question; why isn’t EXAT, along with other forms of alternative therapies, as accessible as clinical therapies or medical clinics in Ontario? Arts-based therapies are proving to be equally as beneficial and valuable as registered, clinical talk-based therapy and should be treated with the same respect, credibility and parameters of patient accessibility and legal access within the Ontario Government.

Every day when I go to work, I'm reminded how mildly accessible alternative forms of therapy, specifically EXAT, is to the general public. The makeup of each EXAT group consisted of, university students, seniors living under hospice/palliative care, adults with HIV/AIDs, children with complex developmental disabilities, and young adults in the St. Catharines region, with a majority of each group having come from low-income households. At this point, I can only imagine how difficult it could be for any participant to access EXAT had they not been given the opportunity to participate in free sessions from agencies like Hospice Toronto, The Resource Association for Teens (The RAFT), Brock University Students Union (BUSU), etc., as many EXAT services range from approx. $60-150/hour for personal therapy sessions, and is not covered by many insurance/benefit plans or OHIP. These facts, as well as visibility and awareness of the existence of alternate therapies, are what make it practically impossible for individuals to access therapy on their own.

Not everyone was born to be a professional artist but, many individuals engage in these artistic activities because they provide a sense of accomplishment, a greater sense of self, and an outer expression of the inner-self, which is not always accessible when using clinical talk-based therapies. The resources are available but, I feel a strong personal responsibility to expedite the process and to help make EXAT accessible to anyone willing to play, share, and explore the Arts.

We are all going to need some assistance at some point in our lives. Together, it is our duty to make help that much easier to access. 

My experience at CREATE has provided me with the resources I need to offer EXAT but unfortunately, the policies that shape this province make it very difficult to execute and offer this service.

I am confident that by making our voices heard and having the proper conversations, together we will have the tools to help elicit change.

Integral Acts of Play - Sonomi Tanaka

Click to learn more about Sonomi Tanaka

Click to learn more about Sonomi Tanaka

Play can be so many things but one definition is an act of engagement within yourself or with someone else. Play often throws in a little enjoyment, boundary testing and fantasy as well. Many adults would add to this definition of play that it is an activity with a lack of practical purpose. However, I would argue that play, right from the beginning of life, has many very important functions for all human beings and even other creatures in the animal kingdom, too.


Let’s go back to the beginning because so many important things happen in the first year of life, in our brains and in our ability to create relationships. Picture a baby, she is having her diapers changed by her father. As he finishes up, he leans forward and blows a big raspberry on his baby’s belly. They both make eye contact, giggle and smile. These moments are seconds long but they are the beginnings of play. It’s also the stuff of bonding and a tool to navigate relationships for the rest of our lives.


A child of seven might be using this kind of play in a game of tag with other kids, an adolescent might poke her friend in jest, and an adult might tease their friend or partner to have a laugh. This kind of play is now not just a way to bond but a way to test boundaries. We use play to navigate the place between me and you, for both physical but also psychological boundaries when there are conflicts in needs or desires. You can see many animals use this kind of play to see what they can get away with and who holds more power.


Play lives in storytelling, which is one of the key ways that we make sense of the world, whether that be a fantasy world, the narratives we create about our own lives or both. Let’s return to the baby we were following. She is now 4 years old and she is playing with a bunch of dolls. She can play by herself now but still narrates aloud her thoughts and inner dialogues. She tells her rabbit doll he has been a bad boy and needs a time out and then turns to the other animals and ceremoniously announces it is bedtime while throwing little blankets on each one. She is parroting words she has heard before but is also engaging in a reenactment of these events. In this simple act of play she is making sense of routines, rules and relationships she has taken part in and practicing them as well.


Structured play and creative expression are something that many of us continue to use into adulthood, whether it be through board game night with friends, corporate engagement activities to teach a new skill, bocce on the corner with your friends of 30 years or a knitting circle. Games and activities like this provide us with a ritualized events, within which, we can find time to have deeper conversations, connect with one another or have the opportunity to build an entire community.


The girl that we were following is now 10 years old and she has become passionate about water polo. Through playing on a team she’s made new friends outside of her school which has been a relief when social situations at school were strained. She has learned to persevere both physically and mentally even after she has made several mistakes and to not only recover from a game lost but shake the winner’s hand. All signs of how to build inner strength to face challenges but also how to create social supports to increase resiliency in the face of difficulty.


As adults we often use spoken words as we are more developmentally able. However, play often lives in the realm of the unspoken, using metaphor, movement, gesture, facial expression, tone of voice, dance, song or art. This is the hidden language that often has more impact in communication than the words themselves. This can be seen clearly in the art of a good sense of humour; tone, timing and intonation can make or break the opportunity to connect with someone over a laugh, just ask any comedian.


Ultimately we lose a precious tool and skill to connect with others when we disregard small acts of play at any age. Armed with a wealth of moments of play this young girl can go on to pass it on to her own children, her peers, her co-workers and partners. It becomes the integral building block for how to live with others and how to understand ourselves. Play also provides the tools to bounce back and realize our resilience during difficult times.


Challenge yourself to incorporate little moments of play into your everyday lives; add a dab of humour to help put a new spin on old ways of thinking, spend 15 minutes in a fantastical world with your child or connect with colleagues after work over a game of pool. You might just find that it will add a layer of vibrancy and strength to your life. 

Sonomi Tanaka's Creative Therapy Online Page


Creative Therapy Online - Online Directory for Creative Therapists

Are you a creative therapist who is interested in sharing your expertise, connecting with clients, and learning more from other professionals to evolve your practice of creative therapy? 

Introducing Creative Therapy Online, the first online directory for creative therapist professionals of all disciplines.

Creative Therapy Online is an online directory that is home to all professions of creative therapy. Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Drama Therapy, Dance/Movement Therapy, Play Therapy, Sandplay Therapy, Expressive Arts Therapy, Poetry Therapy, Photo Therapy and more, are all welcome on Creative Therapy Online. 

The purpose of creative therapy online is to bring together a community of professionals who have one common goal – to use creativity in order to help others.

While all of the unique creative therapy practices may have different ways to process material during sessions, they all have the common goal of using creativity to help others. Creative Therapy Online is a network and community of like-minded professionals to connect with one another and learn from each other. It is also a directory for clients to browse for a creative therapist that will suit their needs.

Not everyone processes feelings, thoughts and worries the same way. Creative therapy is a wonderful alternative to traditional talk therapy. Founder Matthew Viviano wanted to create a place where the public could easily reach out and access alternative treatment and solutions to their situations via the world wide web.

Creative Therapy Online launches on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016.

To celebrate the opening of our unique network, Creative Therapy Online conducted 3 interviews with different creative therapy professionals. This is a video series that focuses on asking real creative therapists about their experiences and journeys as creative therapy professionals. 

The first video will be released during the launch of Creative Therapy Online.

Creative Therapy Online is rich with opportunities for partnerships, employment, building private practices and more. 

Creative Therapy Online – Where Creative Connects!

The Logo - What does it Mean?

As Creative Therapy Online is a new community, it bears an emblem that will carry an important message about our unique growing network. The question is, what is the message?

Viviano created the logo with the idea of community in mind. As this website brings together different kinds of creative therapy professionals with different training experiences, inherently everyone on this website is very different. However, we are all similar because we all use creativity to help

The two black semi-circles on the outside of the logo represent the therapist-client relationship during sessions. Therapy is a way to explore relationships through the special connection of therapist and client. This paradigm of human connection is common with all creative therapy models.

The different coloured circles within the semi-circles represent the different creative therapy professions.

Red represents Drama Therapy for the passionate expression of characters during stories.

Blue represents Music Therapy in which, like the tides of an ocean, the rhythms, and flow of the music explored in sessions help the clients.

Purple represents Dance-Movement Therapy as a combination of red passionate expression and blue rhythmic flow to create dance.

Pink represents Play Therapy in its soft and kind way to give children a space to explore issues using toys.

Yellow represents Sandplay Therapy with its texture that can represent the rough patches and calm deserts explored with the client.

Green represents Art Therapy with its earthy use of art materials to create something from nothing.

Light-Blue represents Photo and Poetry Therapy which give life to the pictorial and lingual forms of weaving static stories that can hold space for the client to express - like ice holding the static story of water.

Finally, Silver represents Expressive Arts Therapy and Integrative Methods which encompass the use of all creative therapy tools to help clients explore, create, and express themselves.

And in the centre, the world wide web connects all of these ideas, thoughts, practices and professionals together.

This logo represents the dream that all creative therapy professionals can learn from one another, grow together, and help others better than ever imagined.