What are Micro Expressions /Emotions and how can I use Micro Expressions / Emotions in my therapy practice?

When I was in graduate school at Mercer University in Atlanta I had a class with the infamous Dr. Art Williams. Dr. Williams was one of the most gifted teachers I have ever had in school.

He scared me to death at first, but I grew to love him! I was lucky to have him as a professor for several classes, and later on as a boss when I worked under him as an adjunct professor.

Dr. Williams has taught me many techniques in therapy, however, one of the most interesting techniques was the identification of the micro expression in clients.

At the time he called this the micro emotion. We had the same training that the FBI had on micro expressions and learned how to identify facial expressions when a person was telling the truth, and when they were lying.

Research has shown that eye movement can help identify mental health disorders in patients. Humintell's website describes micro expressions very well in that it is a very "brief and involuntary expression of emotion".

The seven emotions that are universally shown are: contempt, surprise, disgust, anger, fear, happiness, and sadness. Humintell states that they can happen in 1/15th to 1/30th of a second (Ekman).

The History of micro expressions begin with the discovery by Haggard and Isaacs in 1966. They watched hours of therapy sessions on film searching for micro expressions.

Learning how to identify micro expressions are invaluable to the workers of the mental health profession. Micro expressions allow the viewer of the micro expression to look deeper and understand a concealed emotion that is possibly the result of a repressed emotion. 

Therapists with higher emotional intelligence are very good at finding micro expressions. 


Disclaimer: This website and its content is intended for trained licensed mental health professionals and school certified mental health professionals to use for their clients / students at their own discretion.

*If you ignore the disclaimer above are using these techniques on yourself and you feel any discomfort or upset it is highly suggested that you seek out a licensed  mental health professional immediately.

"Beyond Art Therapy" is the concept from Dr. Stangline that combines all creative fields in therapy. It is not the traditional "art therapy" but goes beyond to include sand tray therapy, play therapy, mindfulness, meditation, color therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and a vast majority of other therapies.

For any other type of mental health emergency call your local 911 / Police Number immediately.

Dr. Stangline does not offer advice / suggestions to anyone who is not a professional mental health provider, or a student who is studying this field and has questions about mental health programs of study.

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