Alessandra Colfi, Ph.D.(c)

Member IEATA


Practice Expressive Arts-Centered Empathy


If there is light in the soul,
There will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person,
There will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house,
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
There will be peace in the world.
--Chinese Proverb

Title Content EXT Intro Cancer Patients Story Telling Developmentally Disabled P.E.A.C.E . Proposal Bio   Bibliography



Empathy Expressed: Expressive Arts Therapy as Agent of Peace



What if we integrate psychology, neuroscience, spirituality and peace activism to work together within the Expressive Arts to create Peace?

On the assumption that our psyche doesn’t distinguish between personal experience of an event or emotion and seeing someone else having that experience, weather in a movie, visualization, enactment or as a ritual, we will call Empathy forth and journey with a Self deeply interconnected with all humanity, compassion in action and create Peace with active means.

We will create and share visual art, music, drama, ritual and movement in a dynamic and transformative Expressive Arts Therapy Playshop.


Learning Objectives

My Playshop supports practitioners and teachers who will learn specific processes to assist their clients and students in bringing forth empathic awareness, attitudes and behaviors; it brings a deeper understanding in cultivating & embracing differences; it creates the emotional ‘space’ and new ways for expressing genuine interest, caring peaceful intentions and compassionate interactions towards known and unknown individuals and groups, therefore it contributes to ‘living from peace’. By using all the arts, the Playshop applies to the diverse pool of human learning styles and offers individuals choices in the modes of expression and creativity and an opportunity to deepen the experience with each modality.





Empathy Expressed: Expressive Arts Therapy as Agent for Peace



My Expressive Arts Playshop is an integrated multi-arts experience using Expressive Arts Therapy’s fulfilling and rewarding intermodal approach, its dynamic and transformative processes in a gentle, playful and yet profound modality. Together, we will generate empathic awareness and compassionate behavior, nurture caring and concerned peaceful attitudes and interactions, bring a deeper understanding, embrace differences, and contribute tangible ways to creating peace from the inside out.


The working assumption is that our psyche doesn’t distinguish between our personal experience of an event or emotion and seeing someone else having the same experience, or seeing it in a movie or playing it out in enactment, ritual, etc. The simulation “links imaginative stories to lived narratives” (1).  It works well for athletes who are able to ‘rehearse’ their performance in their minds; increased blood flow to the muscles and measurable muscle contraction has been recorded during visualization resulting in improved athletic performance (2).


This is based on a theory in neuroscience about Mirror Neuron Circuitry, integrating action and perception. According to this theory we have neuron circuits in the pre-motor cortex that ‘fire’ when we either perform a given action or see someone else performing the same action or imagining it. This is why the Arts are so valuable and meaningful. (3).


Our journey will connect psychology with neuroscience and spirituality. Starting from the Jungian approach of bringing the unconscious to the surface, and employing his idea of the Self deeply connected with all humanity through archetypes, we will then bridge to universal consciousness, the Zen Buddhist concept of non-self; the self exists only in relationship with all sentient beings, animals, plants and minerals.


Buddhist Master Thick Nhat Hahn  reminds us that “There is no way to peace, peace is the way”; and great leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama have pointed out that the  means must be consistent with the ends and compassion must be informed by wisdom. This Playshop, therefore, while focusing on inner transformation, will emphasize the practices of Expressive Arts Therapy and how they might be used widely in schools, workplaces, community activities and by individuals alone. 


One such skillful means is drama, since “Theater is change and not simple presentation of what exists; it is becoming and not being”; the main goal of theater “is to provoke catharsis” (4). Theatre also explores how “Empathy is the emotional relationship which is established between the character and spectator” (5).


How does it work? Participants will engage in an Intermodal Expressive Arts Therapy Playshop consisting of:

1)      A Guided Relaxation (breathing exercise), leading into a Guided Visualization journey designed to elicit empathy, especially feeling love and acceptance from the inside to the outside, ranging from loved ones  to people we may dislike or fear, and extending from the self to the cosmos.

2)      Participants will then form 3 groups:

Group A will engage in self-expression with mixed-media art materials; group B will create and perform an enactment; and group C will create a ritual.

3)      Each group will share the process with the whole.

4)      We’ll close with a round of SUFI Dancing, a Dance of Universal Peace.






1. Feldman: From Molecule to Metaphor (2006), 213-215.

2. Samuels, Mike: MD and Nancy Samuels, Seeing with the Mind’s Eye (1975), NY, 66.

3. Lakoff, George: The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain (2008), 39.

4. Boal, Augusto: Theater of the Oppressed (1993), 25.

5. IBID, 102.







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Celebrating Peace Through Music for more than 25 years
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