How can Art be used to Heal Trauma?
“Trauma leaves a void that can be filled only by the revisiting of it, whether through creative productions or through the presence of another. To overcome the unspeakable feelings evoked by trauma must find a communicable form, and a structure that gives them coherence and meaning”. (Haen,C. 2017:46)
Neuroplasticity - Art stimulates brain activity; it can help to ‘rewire’ neural pathways. ”For years, we recognized that art-making allowed one to reframe experiences, reorganize thoughts, and gain personal insights that often enhanced one’s quality of life”. L. M. Konopka 2014
Self Regulation - Art making can have a soothing or a meditative effect. There is a concreteness to making visual art, it can be grounding and also fosters sense of achievement or accomplishment.
Catharsis - Art can be cathartic to create but also releasing to “get it out”. There is more room for healing to occur.
Gives Agency - Control over the art material, voice, music or movement.
“Interpersonal and relational traumas are about the subjugation of one’s agency to a more powerful and destructive other”. (Haen,C. 2017:53)
Meaningful Expression - Gives form and a capacity to make something ‘beautiful’ or clear out of chaos.
Unconscious Process - When words can not be spoken - Sometimes it is difficult to put into words distressing emotions. The brain represses what it cannot process. Traumas can be locked in the unconscious mind because they are too painful to deal with. Though creative arts one can express raw feeling without thinking or over processing the experience.
Projection - Externalizing the pain or emotional trauma. Once the image is ‘outside’ of you, you can then look at it subjectively and deal with it.
Disassociation or being Withdrawn - Sometime people who have suffered trauma PTSD can become ‘stuck’ or disassociated. The physicality of creating can encourage healing. Art and creative expression inspire spontaneity, imagination and intuition which is central to positive transformation.
Therapeutic Process and Relational Behaviour -
Art Therapies can be precursor to ‘talking’ therapies.
Witnessing and Containing - Art making with a therapist can have a Reparative effect. Witnessing the trauma can reframe the experience and dissolve shame or fear. Art Therapy allows one to express inner demons or darkness and not be rejected but be held in a safe environment. The therapist as witnesses, contains (supports) the artist and the projected image which helps to detoxify the trauma; the physical abuse, sexual violence or shame.
Intersubjectivity - Co-created exchanges to rebuild relationships / change relational behaviour. Positive human interaction fosters positive change and a healing transformation.
Reparative effect - Art making with a therapist can have a reparative effect. Witnessing the trauma can reframe the experience and dissolve shame or fear.
Witnessing and Containing - Art Therapy allows one to express inner demons or darkness and not be rejected but be held. The therapist as witnesses, contains the artist and projected image and detoxifies the trauma; the physical abuse, sexual violence or shame.
Eden O. Shoro
+44 (0) 7415536164