Expressive Arts Therapy

How I became an Expressive Arts Therapist: From the need to get to the need to give

It seems there’s just never too much money—at least not for any singer/songwriters I know. So a few years back I needed to supplement, and a friend of mine suggested giving songwriting workshops to kids in schools. I was never that interested in teaching songwriting, but I figured it was something I knew something about, and I definitely needed to do something.

So I put together a few ideas on how to write songs, made a brochure, mailed it to schools, and started getting a work teaching kids about songwriting. Surprise: I loved it. I loved working with the kids. I loved hearing their ideas and the stories that poured out of them. I eventually had the good fortune to connect with Feel the Music!, an organization founded in 2002 to help kids and families who lost family in 9/11. That led to more work with kids facing trauma in other countries (Northern Ireland, Iraq) and contexts (kids with serious illness).

I experienced what many others have before me, and was reminded what I experienced growing up: music builds capacity, music transforms, music heals. Listening to it is one thing, but actively creating it multiplies the benefits infinite-fold. I decided this needed to become a bigger part of my life, so I went back to school and earned a Masters in Social Work, with a specialty in global social work and working with children affected by trauma. Look at some of the amazing experiences this work has brought my way:

Songwriting and performing in Iraq

Reviewing lyrics before students perform their song, US Embassy, Baghdad

1. Reviewing lyrics US Embassy Bagdhad

2. Preparing to perform US Embassy

Teaching at Al Mustansiriya University, Baghdad. On the way there, we were told that it was a holy day and no music was allowed! So I focused on lyrics. Adaptability is key! And this circumstance provided a great additional accidental teachable moment for these students!

4. ML teaching Al Mustansiriya University, Baghdad

Northern Ireland

Creativity afterglow in Belfast with kids from conflict zones all over the world.

New York Presbyterian Hospital

Songwriting with kids while they get their medication

Songwriting as a therapeutic tool—along with expressive writing and music in general—has proven itself to me, to those I’ve worked with, and to many others, as documented in the new and growing literature. It’s another “way in”, a way for people discover themselves and what matters to them, to confront conflicts and find a new pathway to resolution. Even if we end up not writing at all, these sessions have provided a valuable environment for children, adolescents and adults to explore their lives and achieve positive outcomes. If you have questions, would like to explore this for yourself or recommend this to someone else, please visit www.kortesclinic.org or contact me at KortesClinic@gmail.com.