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Educator & Therapist David Howland

Applying therapeutic techniques to education, the importance of the arts in our daily lives and how we can learn to understand expressing our creativity to balance physical, emotional and intellectual health

Q. What is Expression Unlimited, and how would you describe your work?

Expression Unlimited is a unique blend of expressive arts therapy and arts-based learning/teaching that centers on effecting creative expression and understanding the impact this expression can have on us in so many ways. The theoretical base of Expression Unlimited is current research in cognitive science and creativity.

David Howland - Expression Unlimited
Expression Unlimited

The arts (music, drawing and painting, movement, drama, stories and writing) provide an enjoyable and gentle outlet for self-expression and can unlock reserves of personal strengths and abilities. Through guided arts activities, I work with people of all ages to help them to understand how to enhance the quality of their lives with creative expression. The process is both a therapeutic experience and a learning experience because we learn about ourselves through our own expression, and we learn to understand how to take charge of our own wellness. The expression that we seek to achieve can be channeled to general enrichment and personal growth, or it can focus on school- or work-related issues.

Every client receives an individualized program on a short-term or long-term basis. I always offer a free consultation to potential clients, but as I am not a clinical psychologist, I do not offer testing or psychological diagnosis. I do, however, work in tandem with health care and educational specialists.

Q. How did your work come about?

I was both a certified teacher and professional musician when I first discovered the work of Howard Gardner, Harvard University professor and author of numerous books and articles on his Multiple Intelligence Theory. Gardner, a psychologist and educator, changed my way of thinking, and I began to introduce the arts into my work more and more. The results amazed me.

     

At about the same time, I had begun to study therapeutic music, and I gradually incorporated principles from this discipline into my mainstream teaching. Again, I met with results that could not be dismissed or ignored. I went on to become certified as an Expressive Arts Therapist so that I could work with all the arts and apply them to wellness and education.

I co-authored a book, Move to the Music, with my colleague Karen Sekiguchi, and I had the great honor and pleasure of studying with Howard Gardner himself at Harvard University. I also owe a debt of gratitude to friend and mentor Don Campbell, author of the internationally acclaimed book The Mozart Effect, as well as numerous other publications that have profoundly influenced the way music and the arts enhance educational and therapeutic processes.

  Move to the Music, by David Howland and
Karen Sekiguchi

Q. What services do you provide for children and adolescents?

Children always seem to respond favorably to the arts. I think that the best description of arts-based techniques for wellness and education is “letting go while staying focused”. With this in mind, I offer the following:

• Developing creative awareness and expression
• Developing behavior, concentration and study habits
• Interpersonal communication awareness
• Speech, language, and literacy development
• Improving listening skills
• Addressing sleep disturbances
• Relaxation and stress reduction
• Coping with grief and loss
• Working with physical and mental health challenges
• Creative play

In addition, because I am a certified teacher, I offer more traditional tutorial services, enhanced with the arts for optimal sensory stimulation. I welcome questions and inquiries from parents, teachers, and school administrators about all these services.

Q. Can you describe some of the services available for adults?

Basically, I am not a psychologist, and if I feel that I am not qualified to work with a particular client, I am very happy to refer the client to someone who may better serve his or her needs. I would like to make this clear. I think that it is very important for professionals to acknowledge their strengths and to know their limitations; we all have both. However, I am interested in working with adults in the ways I list below:

• Developing creativity and self-expression
• Stress reduction and relaxation
• Interpersonal communication
• Understanding family and relationship issues
• Coping with grief and loss
• Coming to terms with physical and mental health issues

Again, I would be happy to speak to anyone who is interested in obtaining more information about my work. What I would like to emphasize is that my work involves understanding and learning about the process leading to wellness. Learning is life long, and it is not relegated to the classroom or traditional academic subjects. Learning about oneself and maintaining balance in life is something that is very important for us all to explore.

5. What recent projects have you been involved in?

Because my work has relevance in broad contexts, and I am fortunate to be able to serve people of all ages within Tokyo and the Kanto area. I really enjoy working with children, and I have had the opportunity to work with them and on their behalf in many capacities. I designed and taught an arts-based language program for elementary school students in a major international school for several years. I am now providing special music and integrated arts programs in another one. I have given a variety of presentations to international teachers and health professionals, and see individual clients for both traditional tutoring (with an emphasis on arts-based learning) and expressive arts.

David Howland Therapist, Educator, Musician
David Howland Therapist, Educator, Musician

I am happy to work with adult clients both individually and in groups to provide sessions that focus on stress reduction, relaxation, or other needs where expressive arts can be helpful. I am now using healing music for relaxation in traditional music therapy sessions at a hospital outpatient program for elderly people with dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.

Q. What plans do you have for future work?

I would like the future to include more of an outreach into the various communities within Tokyo and the Kanto area. I would really welcome the opportunity to work with corporations to develop workshops for creativity enrichment and interpersonal communication. This could be helpful for creating solidarity among employees, or to help with creative blocks. It could also prove successful for project team members working together for the first time to get to know one another and to understand each other as they embark on important collaborative work.

In addition, I would like to work in hospitals providing bedside live music, arts projects, and teaching for those confined to a sickroom. I see this as particularly important for children in the international community who are confined to the hospital for extended periods of time. Such hospital stays can be frightening, lonely and isolating experiences, so gentle guided activities would most certainly add quality time to some otherwise very long days of little opportunity for stimulation.

I would also like to work with schools to create therapeutic arts programs where self-expression, not pedagogy, is the focus. This, I believe, is necessary in a complex society where great pressures and demands abound, especially for children. Because children respond so favorably to the arts, this kind of expression can be of great help in creating a physical, intellectual, and emotional balance in their lives. I would like to become actively
involved in the homeschooling community.

Sadly David passed away unexpectedly, aged 56 in Tokyo, Japan, where he had resided for nearly twenty years. A dear friend to many and a devoted educator. More information about David E. Howland

 

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