European Graduate School EGS

Arts, Health and Society Division

Expressive Arts Blog

by Judith Greer Essex













When is the beginning of womanhood? Unlike the biologically regulated event of menarche, the first bra fitting could be said to be one social rite of passage for a girl. In my day it was called a training bra, although who was being trained for what is still in question. I was taken by my Mother into a lingerie shop, a hushed, lavender scented temple of silken dainties, where a woman with a tape measure around her neck, like a doctor’s stethoscope, measured my budding breasts, and pronounced my development like a stockyard hand weighing a cow. From there forward, I was to be in harness. Although tales of bra burning are largely apocryphal, by the time I entered university in 1963, the bra, even at a conservative religious college, became a symbol of sexual politics, a symbol of oppression, and the fetishizing of the female breast. I came to value my foundation garments as allies in the battle against gravity. Having recently entered my 70’s, a good fitting bra is now one of my treasures.

How is this related to Expressive Arts Therapy? Intimately.

Second-year students at the Expressive Arts Institute, are required to take a training course called Social and Political Responsibility. Many of our Expressive Arts Therapy and Education students will become helpers in underprivileged communities, and even conflict zones. All will practice in a world where inequity and hardship is increasingly the rule for the vast majority. One of our research projects is called the “Map of My Stuff.” Students and staff look at everything we are wearing, everything we carry with us, from combs to phones, and from flip-flops to laptops. Each student marks the place for each item on a large world map, seeing where the goods and clothing they are investing in come from. Usually they are surprised at how global their lifestyle has become, often struggling to find the countries on the map. We in-vestigate the environmental impact of the raw materials and the human cost and working conditions of those distant persons who make our things.

This year, I discovered that my beloved Wacoal bras, are actually sewn in the Dominican Republic or Thailand. Both countries have poor human rights records, and a prominence of low wages and unsafe working conditions. Most garment factory workers are women, and not well treated. Somehow the very common intimacy of this garment, so close to my heart and my femininity, leads me to consider the lives of the women who make them.

So I began the search for a bra that is ethically made.

I found wonderful looking bras “Made in France.” Upon digging, I discovered that while they were designed and cut in France, they were largely sewn and assembled in Tunisia, Madagascar, Portugal, China, Morocco, and Thailand. According to the company, thisqualifies under E.U. law for the Made in France label. I suppose in these days of this global economy, I shouldn’t be surprised that nothing is made in one place. We are all connected. Even so, the place matters.

Because I am connected to the woman who makes my bra, and I can’t forget her lifecircumstances. I think of her weary hands, her long days, her impoverished life, her kids. And I keep looking, for a better, more responsible company to do business with. I can’t participate in a system that enslaves her through low wages, even as it demeans her labor. This is part of the Expressive Arts philosophy – that our social and political environments affect us, and our simple actions can have far-reaching effects. If I am to take aesthetic responsi-bility, not only for my work, but also for my life, then I must respond to the conditions of others I am connect to.

As part of my aesthetic response I wrote his haiku to the woman who sews my brassiere in the Dominican Republic:

You labor long hours
Your skilled hands working for me
My secret sister.

I am still on a search for a ”perfect bra;” one that serves the women who make it as well as those who wear it. Although they call bras “intimates” I’ve come to recognize that my true intimates are the women whose handiwork crosses my heart each day.


Wanna Map Your Stuff?

You’ll need a world map and sticky notes, or pins etc. Check labels on everything you wear, carry, use, and eat. Put the name of the thing on a flag and put it on the country that claims its manufacture. Use internet-resources to learn more about the place your stuff is made, and what it’s made of.  Write a small poem to the person whose handiwork has become part of your life. Have a “Stuff Map’ gathering of friends. You’ll all learn something.


Author’s Bio:

Judith Greer Essex, PhD, is the founder and director of the Expressive Arts
Institute in San Diego, providing professional education in expressive arts therapy since 1998. Dr. Essex is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Expressive Arts Therapist, and Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist. She is Adjunct Faculty at the European Graduate School and Alliant University. Trained as a dancer, she is also a published poet. Read her blog at



by Stephen K. Levine

flowing tao

The theme of this year’s International Expressive Arts Therapy Conference, befitting its location, was “The Flowing Tao of Expressive Arts.” Ellen Levine and I participated, along with other faculty from EGS (including Paolo Knill, Margo Fuchs-Knill and Sally Atkins (with her stellar team from Appalachian State University). Daria Halprin, Director of Tamalpa in Kentfield, California, and an erstwhile EGS teacher, gave the keynote address, focusing directly on the theme. She began by affirming the importance of flow in the creative process, but then questioned whether “flow” was an adequate term to describe that process. After all, what about breaks, stoppages, obstacles? Are they not as significant as flow? And isn’t much of contemporary art representative of such breaks, as our culture is far from a state of flow? Daria then proceeded to give a dynamic demonstration of the relation between flow and non-flow in movement, reflecting afterwards that while flow may perhaps be the goal of Expressive Arts, it can be reached only by going through the painful and discordant moments that arise in the therapeutic and artistic processes. It was an intense and moving (literally) presentation that, to my mind, set the tone for the Conference as a whole. The following is a personal report that sets my own experience in the light of the Conference theme.

In a way, it was a minor miracle that ultimately the Conference went well, with many fine presentations and satisfied participants, considering that there were over 400 participants, from 24 nations, with a diversity of languages and backgrounds. This was in no small part due to the hard work of the organizers and the IEATA Board. I was particularly struck by the enormous hospitality that all the organizers and volunteers showed to us. Expressive Arts is alive in Hong Kong, and the enthusiasm of the teachers and students who were there whenever we needed them demonstrated that.

My own participation began with Ellen Levine and I leading a pre-Conference workshop on “Aesthetic Responsibility: Expressive Arts and Social Change” The workshop challenged participants to find their own aesthetic response to the social situations in which they found themselves in their own countries. We worked mostly through movement, since all the participants were from Asian countries and many of them had little or no English. We used a movement structure that Ellen had developed in which, through a series of “takes,” each dancer found their own movement and then encountered the movement of the other, ending not in “mirroring” but in a mutual affirmation and acceptance of difference. The contrast is what makes the dance powerful.

Ellen and I also offered a “Pioneer” presentation on arts-based research in the Expressive Arts during which, after briefly lecturing on the topic, we gave an improvised demonstration, using the model of the “architecture of the session” outlined by Paolo Knill in Principles and Practice of Expressive Arts Therapy. In accordance with this “architecture,” I began by filling-in with a research question that was on my mind: What is the connection between the theme of relationship in therapy and other helping professions, and the arts-based character of the approach to Expressive Arts at the European Graduate School? This question has occupied me for some time, given the growing focus on the concept of relationship in contemporary psychotherapy on the one hand, and the development of an arts-based framework for Expressive Arts at EGS on the other.

Ellen acted as the guide or “companion” for me in this process, leading me through an intense movement exploration in front of the sixty-odd participants in the workshop. She noticed me “reaching” for an answer to my question, and therefore asked me to explore reaching through movement. She herself entered into the “decentering” (stepping into the alternative world of the imagination) by moving rapidly and forcefully across the space, colliding with me as I slowly reached up and out using t’ai chi-like movements. Our process became a struggle, perhaps even a conflict, as we held on to our different movement styles. We then paused to reflect on the process, asking ourselves what we liked about it and what we wished for in the next take. Like the members of our pre-Conference workshop, we each wanted to stay true to our own styles yet find a way to connect across our differences. The second take was as intense as the first, but somehow ended with a connection at the end, as her forcefulness and my gentle movements met and found a tender place of connection, each of us letting go of trying to “win,” and each accepting the other while meeting in a genuine encounter. In my reflections afterwards (in what we call the “aesthetic analysis” and “harvesting” parts of the session), what came to me was the thought that “art is the connection,” i.e., that in Expressive Arts work, the participants form a relationship through the art-making itself, thereby overcoming the polarity between a relational and an aesthetic approach to the work.

I believe the demonstration was effective, since afterwards we asked the workshop members to do their own explorations, and a veritable explosion of creativity took place all over the room. I was particularly pleased to see Paolo Knill down on all fours in his small group, moving around vigorously and obviously enjoying himself immensely. Perhaps the effectiveness of the demonstration was due in no small part to the “break” in the flow between Ellen and myself, a break that probably made the ultimate connection all the more significant. Art cannot just flow. Like a river, its force increases when it meets obstacles and finds a new way to surmount them. This may perhaps be true for life itself.

At the end of the Conference I led a closing ceremony for all 400 of the participants. I was rather apprehensive beforehand: how to find a good ending for such a large and diverse group? After a brief poetic introduction by Margo, I began with a brief reflection on the theme of diversity, which Maria Gonzalez-Blue had raised in her acceptance speech upon receiving the Shining Star award from IEATA. In my talk, I stressed the importance of diversity while at the same time emphasizing the need to reach across our differences and connect, thereby finding a new way of being together. In the end, I let go of all attempts at having people reflect on the Conference individually, as I had planned. Instead I took advantage of the wonderful musicians at the Conference (including EGS doctoral student Carrie Herbert on saxophone, Harold McKinney from Appalachian State playing the trombone, and Ashok from India providing a strong drum beat). Starting with slow and melodious music, during which time the different participants silently moved around the room making eye contact while being aware of their impending separation, we then moving into an upbeat and rapid rhythm, while the sax and trombone wailed and everyone began to boogey. Again, I saw Paolo fully engaged and dancing madly in the group. If the arts don’t bring life to us all, then what good are they really?

Although I myself aim for flow in my life and long for an end to conflict, the Conference made me realize once again that authentic flow contains breaks as part of its process, that connection does not mean the absence of conflict and that, as the Buddhists are said to do, we should say, “Welcome,” to the obstacles we meet. They are our material to work with, the gifts that life brings. Perhaps we can only genuinely celebrate when we accept these gifts. The Tao contains both male and female, hard and soft, forceful and yielding. It flows only when all opposites and oppositions and met and responded to. Only in this way can we live fully and bring the gift of increased vitality through the arts to those we try to help.




By Stephen K. Levine

“The fist, too, was once the palm of an open hand.” Yehuda Amichai  

On July 24th, 2015, The European Graduate School celebrated 20 years of teaching and learning. As part of the occasion, Evarist Bartolo, the Minister of Education and Employment of the Republic of Malta, addressed the audience of faculty, students and honored guests. Malta, a member of the European Union, has recently accredited EGS as an institute of higher education – a long awaited milestone in the development of the school. All summer long, the faculty labored over the accreditation forms, in addition to our intensive teaching schedule. Now that a representative of Malta was here in Saas-Fee, I anticipated a bureaucratic presentation that would be exceedingly long and boring. Much to my surprise, Evarist, as he asked us to call him, began by talking about the World War I poetry of Wilfred Owen and the meaningless carnage of men from nations that were foreign to each other, a slaughter that took Owen’s life as well.

Read more here:

On Being Strange – The Encounter of EGS with Malta


Workshop by EGS Alumni Alina Tomsa

by admin on February 6, 2015

Bildschirmfoto 2015-02-06 um 08.55.09

Open the PDF!


by Stephen K. Levine

Tinquy is a Quechua word which signifies a transformative encounter between two beings. It is also the word that José Miguel Calderon uses as the key word of his EGS dissertation, “Tinquy: The Encounter Between the Peruvian Imaginary and the Expressive Arts.” José and his partner, Judith Allalu, were doctoral students at EGS who took the chance of returning to their country against parental advice to bring expressive arts therapy to Peru and to Latin America. Since their return some ten years ago, their institute, TAE Peru (Terapia de Artes Expresivas), has flourished and has trained a new generation of students and practitioners in the practice of expressive arts, not only in therapy but also in the many fields of practice to which the basic principles of EXA can be applied.

The dissertation defense took place on January 20, 2015, at the mid-point of the summer school in Peru. This was the fourth time that a session of the EGS masters program in Expressive Arts therapy had been held in Peru. As in each case, the teaching was shared between Paolo J. Knill, Margo Fuchs-Knill, Ellen Levine and myself. Ellen and I arrived in Lima on the morning of January 20, after a sleepless night, having missed our plane connection in Miami due to a five-hour traffic jam on I-95. After checking in briefly at our hotel, we met Paolo and Margo for lunch and were briefed about the progress of the summer school up to this point.

We then rushed to TAE, where the defense was held in front of an audience of some seventy-five members, including both José and Judith’s parents. The examining committee, including the four of us with the addition of Paul Antze, the second reader (I had been the primary supervisor), who participated by Skype, awarded the dissertation the qualification of summa cum laude, the highest distinction. Afterwards, we all went out to eat together (something that all Peruvians love to do, as their cuisine, itself a tinquy between indigenous foodstuff and European culinary practice, is reputed to be the best in Latin America).

The dissertation itself showed a sophisticated understanding of the need for adapting the theory and practice of expressive arts to the particular mentality of Peru, shaped as it has been by the social and historical conditions of an indigenous country that has undergone generations of colonial domination. The “Peruvian imaginary” is the totality of myths, images and practices that distinguishes Peruvian culture from others. Sometimes Expressive Arts, which originated in Europe and North America, has been imported into other cultures without modification, a good example of the legacy of colonialism. Often this takes place with an idealization of the indigenous culture and a rejection of the cultural specificity of the European heritage from which Expressive Arts, in its most recent form, has derived. In this case, however, José Miguel took seriously the need to have a genuine encounter between the tradition of Expressive Arts and the particular reality of Peru, a tinquy in which both cultural mentalities participate as equals.

The medium of this encounter is itself a journey into the imaginary, as the dissertation not only analyses the basic concept frameworks involved but also takes a creative form in which historical and mythical figures from the ancient and recent Peruvian past are allowed to speak in their own voices. Moreover, José himself underwent a transformative tinquy in his research practice, by an arts-based performance in which his personal history was transformed by embodying certain imaginary figures from the Peruvian imaginary, the puma, the condor and the snake, resulting in a new being: the trickster condor. We had witnessed the performance ourselves two years ago during our previous Peruvian summer school and now we saw in José himself a sense of presence strengthened through this personal tinquy with his own cultural heritage.

On the following evening, after Ellen and I had taught all day, we participated with Paolo, Margo and all the faculty of TAE Peru in a conference on “Expressive Arts and the Challenges of the World.” The title itself demonstrates the way in which Expressive Arts has extended its reach, as we have come to realize that the basic principles and practice of the field has a wider social significance than its original basis in psychotherapy. Since the conference, attended by some 150 people, was held in the Bnai Brith house, a Jewish community center, I chose to describe the ways in which my own practice had been shaped by an encounter between my Jewish heritage and the Expressive Arts. I was later to learn that only about five members of the audience, including Judith’s parents, were from the Jewish community. Nevertheless, I felt that perhaps my experience, so different from the Peruvian norm, was worth taking into consideration as an example of how Expressive Arts always stems from a particular history and exhibits a personal style, in the same way as artistic practice in general. We never encounter the universal directly, except in abstract thought, and perhaps not even then.

After the conference, Ellen and I taught for the rest of our eleven-day stint, following Paolo and Margo’s half of the summer school. They were a hard act to follow, having made a strong impact on the students, Paolo introducing of Kabuki theatre into his arts-based teaching and Margo showing how poetry could be a particularly effective way to reflect on and transform experience. Years of poetic practice at EGS, by Margo, Sally Atkins and myself, but especially by Elizabeth McKim, the EGS poet laureate, has shown us that language is not destined to take us away from our sensuous being but on the contrary can be a way to articulate and crystallize our existence into new and effective forms. Paolo’s teaching, as always, was an inspiration to the students, as it challenged them to meet a foreign tradition in a genuine encounter rooted in artistic practice. The Performance Night, traditionally held by students at the end of the summer school, showed how much the students had transformed both poetry and this hitherto alien tradition of physical theatre and had been able to incorporate them into their own performative practice.

The transition to the new style of teaching which Ellen and I exhibited was itself facilitated by a strenuous encounter with the student group, after an arts-based exercise designed to exhibit two basic principles of Expressive Arts, “holding” and “shaping.” The concept of “holding,” stems from D. W. Winnicott’s account of the ways in which psychotherapeutic practice is similar to the original experience of maternal care. A good-enough therapist must “hold” her clients in the way that a good-enough mother (or other care-taker) learns to hold her baby.

Expressive Arts adds to this framework by underlining the experience of “shaping” as an essential part of artistic practice as well as of human experience in general. We shape our world and, in doing so, shape ourselves as well. I think of holding as receiving, and shaping as responding. The concept of poiesis, which I conceive of as fundamental to Expressive Arts in all its forms, expresses both “holding” and “shaping,” since it signifies that we encounter a world already made which we must receive as given to us, but also that we can respond to this world and attempt to shape it in new ways.

In the arts-based exercise that I mention above, the students began by working silently in pairs with their eyes closed, as they manipulated the same piece of clay together. After some time, they worked together with their eyes open. The clay then became the “third” that held their relationship, and it also gave them an opportunity to shape it in new ways.

The encounter with the material and with each other seemed to us to be quite effective, as new sculptural forms emerged with care and sensitivity. At that point, we asked them to bring the clay pieces together and, after they had done so, to tell a story that inspired by the new image that had formed. All went well at first, but then some of the men in the group began to take over in their enthusiasm for what was emerging. I noticed most of the women becoming silent, and responded by giving a final instruction that for the last minute only the women could touch the clay and shape it into new forms. We then ended the class, as time had run out.

The next day we invited the students to reflect on their experience. We were met with anger on the part of some of the female students, who felt that we had not “held” them adequately. (There was another complaint as well, since we had changed the time of the course without anyone having told them or consulted them beforehand.) Of course, my initial reaction was to feel defensive, but I have learned that in such situations the most important thing is to listen and take in the truth of what is being said. I believe Ellen and I were both able to do so. Afterwards we helped the students reflect on what had happened and how we all might benefit from this mis-shaped encounter.

We had indeed not intervened in the structure in an effective way during the group shaping, but those students who were upset had also not voiced or acted upon their needs. Rather they had withdrawn into silence and inactivity. However, by bringing up their discontent the next day, they were able to transform their passive response into an active shaping of the group and of our own work as group leaders as well. We also reflected on how this whole experience was typical of the usual relationship between men and women, especially (but not exclusively) in the generally macho culture of Latin America.

After this encounter or tinquy between group members, and between the group and ourselves, the teaching and learning relationship became much stronger. The students had felt “dropped,” and consequently demanded that we hold them sensitively. When we responded to this demand as best we could, they were all able to engage whole-heartedly in the learning experiences which we then offered. We ourselves felt more “tuned in” to the group and were able to use our resources more effectively. Holding is necessary, I believe, for shaping to occur in a creative way. Moreover, a strong encounter can transform both participants, if they are able to let themselves be affected by it without holding too tightly to their own positions, whether this be in education, therapy or social change.

The rest of the summer school was heaven for us, and I think for the group as well, as the students showed by being able to creatively participate and to integrate their experiences into their learning through reflection as well. At the end of the session, we designed a ritual together that took all the experiences and learning they had gone through together and also held and shaped further the transformation that they had experienced in their education as Expressive Arts practitioners. The ritual process that resulted from our mutual shaping had moments of group ecstasy through drumming, singing and moving, as well as moments of silent meditation and the sensitive sharing of gifts that symbolized what they were taking away from their learning experiences. There was a great deal of literal “holding” and hugging afterwards, and also the taking of pictures to remember each other and what we had all done together The Performance Night that evening took the group a step further in a final shaping of the whole experience into a new encounter with the audience of TAE faculty, family and friends.

Ah, Peru! Ah, our tinquy with all of you! We have been affected by our encounter with you, as I believe you have been by your encounter with us. Let us take what we have been given and shape it creatively for all those who come after us. May the ensuing tinquy be as loving and as transformative as ours has been with you, and may we all continue to do this marvelous work in which everyone has a voice in holding and shaping both themselves and the world in which they live together.


Call for proposal – IEATA Conference in Hong Kong

February 2, 2015

The 11th International Conference of IEATA – International Expressive Arts Therapy Association Proposal Submission Deadline: FEBRUARY 20, 2015 (Friday) Conference October 8-10, 2015 Hong Kong, China We are exciting to announce the “Call for Proposal” arrangement for the upcoming IEATA Conference in Hong Kong on 8-10 October this year. This conference will be a wonderful opportunity to […]

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Come and join Expressive Arts in Berlin!

December 14, 2014

The Expressive Arts Institute Berlin offers a Certificate in Expressive Arts and a Master Program in Expressive Arts Therapy in Cooperation with the European Graduate School EGS: Bilingual Academic Program in Berlin

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Love Letters, Post Cards, and Post-it Notes

September 19, 2014

About Pedagogy, Ways of Knowing and Arts-Based Research by Vachel Miller, Katrina Plato, Kelly Clark, Keefe John Henson and Sally Atkins in POIESIS, Volume 15, 2013, EGS Press Find the PDF here: Love Letters

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Presence and Process in Expressive Arts Work – The new Book by Sally Atkins and Herbert Eberhart

September 16, 2014

Foreword by Paolo J. Knill Do you wonder why we need another book on presencing presence and processing process?  If you wonder, then read this surprisingly unique book, serving you timeless topics, freshly prepared “food” for professionals who are sick and tired of over-processed literature about expressive arts. This book offers nourishing food, timeless topics […]

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