Here’s how art therapy can help heal the effects of trauma
According to rough estimates, 70 percent of adults experience at least one traumatic experience in their lives. Of these, 20 percent may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Further, one in every 13 adults will develop PTSD in their lifetime. India has a 28 percent prevalence score for PTSD. This is much higher than the official record of 0.2 percent.
Experts define PTSD as a mental health condition developed as a result of witnessing or experiencing a traumatic, terrifying, life-changing or life-threatening event. The most common symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, anxiety ranging from moderate to severe, nightmares, inability to control negative thoughts, and shortness of breath when experiencing symptoms. PTSD symptoms may develop within months to up to two years after experiencing the event.
Trauma can be difficult to treat
In most cases, people who have experienced trauma suppress the memories of the event in their brains as a coping mechanism. This makes it difficult for any kind of therapy to help them heal. While talk therapy has always been the go-to method to help a person recognize, acknowledge, and accept their feelings, sometimes, there are just not enough words.
In such cases, art therapy helps. During an art therapy session, the therapist encourages the patient to use different mediums of art, like paints, colours, crayons, clay, to express their thoughts and feelings in a controlled environment. During an art therapy session, a patient may choose to draw, colour, paint, or even sculpt.
Art therapy requires the use of the right hemisphere of the brain. This side of the brain is associated with creativity and artistic and musical skills. An art therapist can consciously access this part of the brain through art therapy to uncover repressed memories, thoughts and images. This helps the patient bring the memories and thoughts associated with the trauma to the forefront and deal with them.
How does an art therapy session work
In the first few sessions, the therapist would encourage the patient to draw whatever they want to draw. Once the patient is comfortable with a particular medium, the therapist would ask them to visualize a “safe place” that is, an environment in which they feel safe and then try to draw it in their choice of medium. Taking this as the base, the therapist will gently probe about the stressors, incidents, events or circumstances that invaded the patient’s safe place.
Slowly, the patient starts expressing themselves and drawing things associated with their traumatic experience. This will give the therapist an insight into the traumatic experience and how it affected the patient. Based on this, the therapist will plan an effective treatment program.
The art made by the patient provides a lot of clues to the therapist. The choice of colours, people, the way the people are placed, the stories told, everything that the patient draws provides an insight into underlying issues that help develop the therapeutic plan for the patient.
Therapeutic for adverse emotions
Global studies have proved that art therapy can help trauma victims reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety and raise confidence. Adverse emotions, such as rage and anger, if not expressed can affect the mental health of a patient. A therapist will guide the patient and show them that the emotions that they have expressed through their art actually reflect their pain, anger, frustration and their inability to cope with them. When allowed to express their thoughts and emotions, the patient can actually depict the depth of the trauma, which words would not have allowed.
Gradually, as the patient heals the art changes from dark to something more hopeful, refreshing and invigorating. The choice of colours and themes changes. It allows the patient to connect with their inner self, emotions and what is that that they envisage from life. It empowers the patient and they start believing that there is a promise, they can have expectations and aspirations and that their dreams will come true.
A versatile therapy
Art therapy in itself is flexible with multiple layers. It can be combined with other therapeutic interventions, like yoga, meditation, equine therapy, sports, and lifestyle changes, like eating habits, sleeping cycles, and deficiency monitoring that brings about an overall positive change in the patient.
If you or a loved one is suffering from the effects of a deep trauma and wish to seek treatment, then get in touch with Athena Behavioral Health. Our trained and highly experienced therapists can plan a treatment program for you keeping in mind your needs and requirements. Our treatment center is centrally located, safe and comfortable. For more information about our treatment plans for trauma, depression and anxiety, WhatsApp us on 9289086193 . You can even chat with our representatives for further guidance.