"It"s not uncommon that when I talk about using expressive arts and activities as a tool for trauma healing, I get a confused look. Sometimes, followed up by the [valid] concern"Well, I do enjoy painting, but I don"t see how that"s going to be helpful for my childhood trauma."
Sometimes we feel silenced by our trauma and dark parts of our past. They are covered by a layer of shame. Without intending to, we hold on to our shame tightgiving us an icky or uh-oh feeling when we try to put words to it. Expressive arts bypasses that and also creates space to heal and address the non-verbal experience of trauma, guilt, and shame. Expressive arts are an invitation to express the parts of you that may be deeply interwoven within and underneath others. Expressive Arts Therapy is an intermodal type of psychotherapy in which we engage with art as a tool for healing to express thoughts and feelings that otherwise might remain unexpressed.
Often we talk about wanting to heal or connect with our "inner child" and expressive arts can be a fast-pass highway to accessing this innermost part of ourselves. As children, we communicated through play and creative expression. When we reconnect with ourselves in this way, we can offer the younger "version" of ourselves healing, strength, and a beauty of life we didn"t know when stuck in survival mode. Walking away from an expressive arts therapy session, you may feel like you just connected with your younger self in a way your younger self wanted or wished for. Another benefit to engaging with trauma, stress, or otherwise difficult material through art is that it invites engagement with these difficult parts of us in a space outside of yourself.
Some examples of ways you might be invited to participate in expressive arts in our sessions include:
A simple question, "Crayons, markers, or colored pencils?" followed up by an invitation to "draw how you feel" or "express what that feels like."
An invitation to complete a larger art projectperhaps a body map where you will first outline your whole being, and then incorporate various parts of yourself to create something representative of your life and body"s story.
An offering of blank paper and colored pencils, to "doodle" and support your nervous system while we perhaps engage in discussion of a heavy or vulnerable topic.
A homework assignment to create a poem, story, song, or other visual and bring to our next session to share.
Creation of a family sculpture or transformative dance choreography.
Perhaps some of these listed items seem vague, expressive arts is inclusive in natureintending to access parts of you best expressed through elements such as dance, drama, drawing, music, painting, photography, sculpting, and writing. Regardless of the path in which you choose to engage in creativity, healing comes through expression and meaningful engagement. Expressive arts celebrates the human spirit and it"s ability to integrate and transform experiences.
In addition to helping with trauma healing, engaging in expressive arts can help with learning new ways to cope with stressors and challenges in life. Clients often report feeling more capable to handle stressful situations, feeling a high sense of self-confidence and self-worth, and reduced rates of depression and anxiety."