The Tao of Poiesis: Expressive Arts Therapy and Taoist Philosophy
Creative Arts in Education and Therapy
This paper outlines some of the similarities between the theory and practice of expressive arts therapy (EXA) and the philosophy of Taoism. EXA is grounded in the concept of poiesis, the Greek word for making in general and art-making in particular. The traditional conception of poiesis is of a productive activity guided by the consciousness and will of the artist. However, in EXA, poiesis is conceived of as a process that can only be beneficial if the client and therapist both let go of
... th let go of knowing and willing, and instead "let it be." This notion is similar to Heidegger's concept of Seinlassen (letting something show itself as it is in itself), and to Shaun McNiff's injunction to "trust the process." The concept of poiesis in EXA is like that of wu-wei in Taoism -a "non-action" which nevertheless brings benefits to the one who engages in it and to others. The therapist is like the Taoist sage who leads by non-doing. In addition, the process of "decentering" into the alternative world of the imagination takes the client and therapist into a realm of non-ordinary reality in which resources can be developed and new possibilities for action discovered. The seemingly aimless attitude of wu-wei can lead to effective change in the client's life. The idea of wu-wei sheds light on the central phase of an expressive arts therapy session and is an essential attitude for the EXA practitioner.