All people experience some degree of trauma in their lifetime. Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event (American Psychological Association 2017). While most people associate trauma with domestic violence, war, disaster, and other global catastrophes, trauma is determined by the individual’s response to an event. Some people may experience trauma reactions to the death of a loved one, severe illness, or any other individual level events. There are a series of physiological and psychological responses post trauma. These can include intense or unpredictable feelings, changes in thoughts, behavioral pattern changes, sensitivity to sounds and actions around the individual, trouble relating to others, and severe stress symptoms (American Psychological Association 2017). Traumatic experiences are common, the end question is how do people recover and move on from these traumatic experiences.
Traditional talk therapy is a great resource for those suffering from trauma, but it is not the only method of recovery. Expressive arts therapy has a long-standing relationship with traumatic experiences and developing resilience. Expressive arts therapy offers the ability to reach into the core experiences of trauma and gives the client control over their experience during art. With the inclusion of neurobiological research, expressive arts therapy and art therapy have expanded to truly treat the experience of trauma (Talwar 2007, p. 22). Expressive arts therapy’s ability to reconnect the mind and the body and offer understanding of experience is key to the recovery of trauma.
Clients who have experienced trauma have a multitude of coping skills. One coping skill that is particularly common is to wall off the memories of trauma, however this method typically allows the power of the trauma experience to stay strong and when it is released it can be re-traumatizing to the individual (Talwar 2007, p. 23). For clients with this coping skill it is important to help them lower the wall in a safe manner so they can access the trauma and begin to work through those memories.
Talwar, S. (2007). Accessing traumatic memory through art making: An art therapy trauma protocol (ATTP). The Arts in Psychotherapy 34(1) 22-35.