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Understanding the Expressive Therapies Continuum Part 3: Kinesthetic Level Processing

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

The kinesthetic sense is the ability to feel the movement and position of one's own body. This sense is used when you are dancing, moving your body in response to music, or when you are intentionally using the energy of your body to create something. According to Lisa Hinz, the kinesthetic sense “...encompasses the sensations that inform people and accompany bodily movement, rhythms, and actions,” which highlights the physical component of this form of information processing and non-verbal expression.

The Kinesthetic component of the Expressive Therapies Continuum (ETC) balances the Sensory component at the base level of the model. The manipulation of an object creates kinesthetic sensations from joints and muscles. Touch and haptic perceptions involve movement and also activate emotions. Hinz emphasized that when we engage at the Kinesthetic level, we are not referring to general movements of the body that accompany artmaking, such as swirling water with a paint brush or fine motor movements, but rather we are referring to the intentional therapeutic movements that focus on expressing energy and tension from the body.

When we engage with art materials on a kinesthetic level, our intentions are action-oriented and tension releasing and often we may seek to increase our level of arousal or decrease our sense of tension in the body. Often our bodies may hold intramuscular tensions, especially when the structure of our daily lives go against our natural bodily rhythms and cycles. Actions that one might use to describe art processes on the Kinesthetic level include pushing, tearing, ripping, rolling, scratching, splashing, scribbling and pounding.

The term isomorphism is an important concept existing on the Kinesthetic level of the ETC. Hinz stated that through the principle of isomorphism “ internal state is expressed and matched in a corresponding external experience.” In this way, when we are creating art with materials outside of ourselves, the process and movements in which we engage in can often mirror an internal state that we are experiencing inside of ourselves- our desires, urges and emotions.

With regard to media quality at the kinesthetic level, often, according to research completed by Hinz, these materials and media are considered to be resistive in nature, which means that the individual engaging with these materials would be required to use increased physical energy and effort. Additionally, some materials are known to be highly effective at promoting the release of energy and tension due to their highly structured characteristics, including stone, wood, tile and clay.

At the Kinesthetic level of the ETC, it is important to reconnect ourselves to our bodies, which means intentionally learning to understand how our body feels as it moves and interacts with the environment. At times, we may find ourselves functioning heavily at the Kinesthetic level. According to Hinz, often when individuals have experienced a childhood trauma, it is not uncommon to overuse movements of the body to prevent images from being formed in one’s mind or emotions to flood through.

In our next blog post we will discuss the middle tier of the ETC, focusing on the affective component.

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Reference List:

Hinz, L. D. (2020). Expressive Therapies Continuum: A framework for using art in therapy (2nd ed.). Routledge.


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