Art Therapy has a longer, richer history than one might think. This excellent paper submitted by reader Paula Jensen delves into the origins and evolution of this creative intervention and, more specifically, its many applications in treatment of trauma. Ms. Jensen earned a gift certificate to childtherapytoys.com for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!
Art therapy has been an accepted treatment modality in the therapeutic community for approximately 60 development of art therapy psychological years. Throughout this time, art therapy has been utilized in the treatment of several psychological, the purpose of its use with treating traumatic effects, including amelioration of disorders including trauma. The following review of the literature discusses the disturbances, fostering identity development, self-awareness, self-esteem, its effectiveness associated with the treatment of trauma, and its use as an adjunct with Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
The Use of Art Therapy With Children and Adolescents Who Have a Trauma History
Art has been a prominent part of world culture since the beginnings of man. The oldest recorded piece of abstract art is dated approximately 70,000 years (Whitehouse, 2002). Cavemen carved hieroglyphics as a way to tell stories and communicate messages while Ancient Egyptians carved markings and pictures into the sides of tombs to symbolize the belief of what happened to the human spirit after death. Native Americans use sand paintings in their healing and initiation ceremonies (Ammann & Sandner, 1991). In his book, Man and His Symbols, psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1964) discussed the value of symbols in relation to human existence. Judith Rubin (1999), a pioneer in art therapy, reported that healers, past and present, utilized art-making because of the universality and related power of the symbolic mode. After being used for self-expression and healing for thousands of years, art is now an accepted modality for the treatment of psychological issues by the therapeutic community.
Art therapy is described by the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) (2011) as “[the use of] the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages” (p. 1). Art therapy is based on the belief that “the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem, self-awareness, and achieve insight” (AATA, 2011, p. 1). Contemporary counselors utilize art therapy to address a variety of mental health issues including: “anxiety, depression, substance abuse and addictions; family and relationship issues; abuse and domestic violence; social and emotional difficulties related to disability and illness; trauma and loss; physical, cognitive, and neurological problems; and psychosocial difficulties related to medical illness” (AATA, 2011, p. 1). Art therapy is an innovative modality for addressing a variety of traumatic experiences when working with children and adolescents (Baker, 2006; Buschel & Madsen, 2006; Finn, 2003; Kennedy, 2008; Malchoidi, 2006; Pretorius, 2010; Yohani, 2008).
The Development of Art Therapy
Carl Jung theorized about the importance of exploring and gaining awareness into the unknown self, memories, and understanding the symbolism within the unconscious mind (Jung, 1916; Jung, 1964). Jung, who participated in creative processes in his own life, explored these symbols with clients and helped them to recreate and interpret the meaning of their experiences (Malchiodi, 2006). Throughout his life, Jung continued to draw and paint, in addition to portraying his dreams in writing and carvings in wood and stone (Gladding, 2006). Through his use of art in psychoanalysis, Carl Jung demonstrated that the artistic process is capable of facilitating a deeper understanding of each level of an individual’s psyche.
Open and read the full document here: Art Therapy and Trauma