Therapy for Survivors of Trauma
Use a different kind of therapy to process, reintegrate and heal from a traumatic experience.
Art Therapy is one of the most effective modalities for people working through their trauma because traumatic memory is different than an every day memory. The traumatic experience is stored in our body and we do not have the words to describe the trauma that lives inside of us. This memory can take on the form of a flashback, which reminds of us the fear but does not tell the whole story. Because the memory is not integrated into your conscious or verbal experience of yourself, you have no control over your reactions.
I use a method of therapy that combines a body mind approach with art making as well as verbal processing to help heal from their traumatic past experiences.
Art is a Symbolic Language.
Art is so useful because you don’t need language to tap into it. Instead you can go straight to the memory and express the memory with the symbolic language of art. It’s stored in your body and your unconscious in a way that doesn’t always have words.
Art Helps You Create Your Story.
The art helps you access the memory so you can begin to visually express your trauma narrative. By using art you are finally able to put words to your story and regain some sense of control over the experience.
Art Helps You Regain Control.
Trauma comes as a shock to the body because it renders you powerless. As you’re mastering the materials to express something you’re gaining a mastery of your actual experience. Creating your piece gives you a sense of control. Working with your therapist connects you and helps you heal.
Art is Contained.
Art is a safe way to do this because it’s contained (literally on space on a piece of paper). Art is an expression of your trauma but it is also a piece of art, an object that you have created. You can put it away in a folder or keep it in a sketchbook.
Art Helps Your Anxiety.
Art in itself can be used to express the anxiety and soothe the anxiety that’s coming up as a result of the resurfacing of the stored memory.
Art Therapy is for Adults and Children.
For adults Art Therapy helps you tap into this emotional material safely and directly. For children who have experienced trauma it is imperative that you engage the child with a creative modality, as they often do not have the words to express their feelings. Art Therapy can also be used to process pre-verbal trauma.
How we Heal from our Traumatic Experiences
Trauma is an experience or situation that is emotionally painful and distressing that overwhelms a persons ability to cope and leaves them powerless.
Traumatizing experiences shake the foundations of our beliefs about safety, and shatter our assumptions of trust.
When a traumatic event happens we process it differently than a normal memory. In order to heal from this event we need to transform it so it becomes more like an every day memory. By re-exposing the traumatic memory we can begin to alter it so that it no longer is in fragments, which can trigger anxiety reactions that are acontextual in our current environment. You can conceptualize this by thinking of expanding a flashback to a more complete memory. For example a car horn may be a part of someone’s fragmented traumatic memory. A car horn in itself is a neutral thing, however, this can trigger someone to respond as though the trauma is happening all over again although they are safe in their surroundings. Re-exposure helps sift through these fragments to piece together the whole story so that the triggers are neutralized. The trauma narrative, which we create, helps place the event into a context that we can understand. This becomes our story.