Book Review. Published in the Canadian Art Therapy Journal.

Expressive Therapies Now  Action Orientated Creative Arts Strategies For Healing and Growth In Children 


 Reviewed by Sarah Leyes, B.A. Art Therapy intern

Expressive Therapies Now. Action-Oriented Creative Arts Strategies For Healing and Growth In Children and Youth. Bruce Tobin, (2007) Canada: Keewyck Press: Desktop Publishing Ltd.


Bruce Tobin has a thirty-year history as a mental health professional. He started his career as a front-line Child and Youth Care Worker. Then trained and consulted in child and youth care for the Department of Social Services in the Northwest Territories in the 80’s. He trained and became registered in Art Therapy in the early 70’s. Bruce has also worked in private practice and has taught Expressive Therapies at UVic for twenty years. He works a lot with children and adolescence in school settings and First Nations Communities as the senior counsellor for four Middle Schools in the Saanich School District and counsellor at the LAU WELNEW Tribal school.

I actually had the pleasure of meeting and participating in one of Bruce Tobin’s workshops while I was doing my own Art Therapy training at the Kutenai Art Therapy Institute in Nelson, British Columbia. He presented and facilitated three of the activities found in this book. Bruce’s warmth, sensitivity and keen insights where evidence of his experience, sound knowledge, and innovation in his work.

My personal response to reading Expressive Therapies Now was excitement and hope for using the information found in this practical hands-on volume that focuses on expressive arts activities and their role in fulfilling child and youth care intervention strategies. In keeping with contemporary standards Expressive Therapies Now is consistent with cognitive behavioural theory and practice and an evidence based approach to expressive therapies. It is geared specifically towards the child and youth care student and practitioner although professionals from other fields working with children and youth will find it a valuable and easy to understand resource. Having said that, the text assumes that the reader does have some background in child development, counselling and interpersonal communications but no experience in expressive therapies or creative arts. The text’s lay out is that of a textbook. At the beginning of each chapter Learning Objectives are listed in point form identifying the knowledge and skills the reader will acquire in studying the chapter. My favourite part of the text is the appendix where the reader will find practical instructions on how to facilitate dozens of specific arts activities.

Chapter 1 explains many of the points I have mentioned in the previous paragraph. Its focus is to introduce Expressive Therapies for working with children and youth.

Chapter 2 starts by clarifying terms such as therapy, treatment, counselling and intervention. It distinguishes the benefits, limitations and differences in the medical and growth approaches to child and youth care. Four key elements of treatment are discussed, along with what a practitioner takes into consideration when processing a new case. These would include the steps of gathering information, problem assessment, goal setting, intervention planning and delivery and evaluation.

Chapter 3 outlines the elements of a comprehensive assessment for child and youth care work. It assesses in chart form ten core factors crucial to understanding a client’s behaviour. The chart is a practical tool that can be easily implemented into a child and youth work setting as workers seek to understand the generative factors or ten origins of problem behaviour. Goals and formulation of an intervention plan for individual cases are then added to the chart. Case examples are given to illustrate. This multi-dimensional assessment takes into consideration the whole child and his or her whole situation. Together these ten core factors represent all the important theoretical perspectives of the twentieth century and complete a practical and in-depth assessment.

Chapter 4 is titled Getting Artistic: Understanding the Foundations of Expressive Therapies. It clarifies what art means in terms of expressive therapies. It describes the therapeutic value of the arts, distinguishes between arts education and arts therapy, defines expressive therapies and highlights similarities between the different expressive therapies of dance, visual art, drama, music, and language arts. The common ground all expressive therapies stand on is nonverbal communication, creativity and spontaneity and humanism. I found it refreshing that although the reader may be trained in one particular form of expressive arts or none at all, that this chapter gives permission for the child and youth worker to engage with their clients through these mediums.

Chapter 5 takes the generic theory of modeling to explain the unifying process of the various expressive therapies. Tobin describes seven steps in a framework for understanding change through the modeling theory and process. Guidelines for the suitability and choice of client’s are discussed. Reasons are also given for choosing one expressive media over another and when to switch between media.

Chapter 6 explains the three-stage process of warm-up, encounter and resolution, and closing. The goals of stage are discussed along with specific arts activities to address these goals. Resistance to the art making, the content of the art, and disclosure is covered, along with relationship building. The psychodynamics of emotional change are also broken down into eight easy to follow points.

Chapter 7 is a delightful chapter written on the use of metaphor in expressive therapies. It cites reasons why metaphors are important in communicating an authentic client experience but can also influence the way a client perceives their situation. Dysfunctional metaphors can keep a client stuck in an unfavourable life situation but metaphors can often feel safer because they can ‘speak’ of things without directly having to say them.

Chapter 8 distinguishes between intervention skills and strategies and describes the steps of the General Problem Solving Strategy and discusses is pros and cons. It outlines steps of strategies for facilitating positive change in all areas of the client’s life and also integrates modeling theory into these strategies. This information is illustrated through case examples with individuals that use verbal counselling skills, which are also enriched and expanded upon using expressive graphic art activities. These particular expressive activities are designed to meet the specific needs of the client and the therapeutic relationship in each stage of the client’s process.

Chapter 9 expands on how the counselling strategies covered in chapter eight can use other expressive modalities such as dance/movement, music, drama, sculpture and language. This chapter also gives examples of the group intervention process.

In Chapter 10 Tobin describes a beautiful metaphorical image of a tapestry that enriches and expands his summation of the book.

To summarize, Expressive Therapies Now is a wonderful text that could be easily used in a child and youth worker classroom setting or as a theoretical and practical guide for the worker who is curious about integrating expressive arts activities into his or her practice. This book will hopefully aid in the effectiveness of treatment designed for children and youth at risk through using expressive therapies in purposeful ways according to the intervention plan for positive change. At the same time enhancing and enriching the lives of the children, youth and professionals who use these modalities in the Child and Youth Care profession.


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