The Use of Art Therapy With Children and Adolescents Who Have a Trauma History

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!

 

Abstract:

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

            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

 

Journey Toward Healing

This article comes to us from Megan Boyd and was originally posted on her blog “The Unconventional Counselor”. Be sure to stop by and check out more great posts like this one. (Ms. Boyd earned a gift certificate to childtherapytoys.com for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!)

The entire nation watched in horror as the events of December 14, 2012 unfolded in Newton, Connecticut.  The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took the lives of 28 people that day; 20 innocent children, 6 staff members, the perpetrator, and his mother. There is no possible way to wrap your head around what these families and communities have been through.

As helping professionals, our immediate response is to want to figure out some way to help. As a community counselor, I thought about the children I work with, and how I would have reacted or what I would have done if these were my clients in my community. Traumas of this magnitude are so unthinkable that when they do occur we recognize the long journey that this community is going to need to work through in order to find some sense of peace surrounding that devastating day. Moreover, the 1 year anniversary is quickly approaching, which will trigger the emotions and events for each individual experience.

Approximately 20 miles outside of Newton sits the quaint community of Wilton. Filled with historical buildings and beautiful fall foliage, the towns of Wilton & Newton are not estranged. The residents of each share a history of shared trauma from 9/11, and in most social circles there is at least 1 degree of separation from a direct victim of the Sandy Hook massacre.

Within the past 2 days, a team of counselors comprised of faculty and doctoral students from Mercer University’s Counselor Education & Supervision Program had the opportunity to meet with some of these community residents, particularly those in the helping profession, (counselors, case managers, religious leaders, etc.) that were affected by this tragedy.

As a part of this team, I hope we made a tiny impression on their healing. We lead a 3-course workshop surrounding grief, loss, & trauma, sharing information about what they can expect for themselves as well as their clients they are serving. I am grateful for the opportunity be a part of this team. The following themes were addressed with attendees:

*Systemic Loss, (Community/Familial/Relational)

*Tasks of Grief

*Expected behaviors associated with grief/loss for children and adults

*Concerning behaviors associated with grief/loss for children and adults

*The individualized experience of grief/loss

*Trauma responses; including PTSD and symptomology

*How to make a referral

*Attending to scope of practice

*Self-care assessment

As I made my way back to Atlanta, I had some time to reflect on the experience, and I am finding myself feeling hopeful, humbled, and extremely thankful to have been able to be a part of this.

The space for the workshop was provided by Wilton Baptist Church, which was absolutely beautiful. It was upon first entering this building that the gravity of what this population endured began to set in. The people we met were immediately willing to share their story, how they are connected to Newtown, and how they are connected to the helping professionals.  We are especially thankful for the cooperation and collaboration with The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for coordinating this trip.

After the first day of the workshop, the pastor conducted an inter-faith worship service. He lit a candle for each of the victims. Prior to the candles being lit, I was able to view the alter. Something about seeing this image and what it represented was an overwhelming visual.

Managing your distress in the aftermath of a school shooting

This important articles comes from the Texas Psychological Association…

You may be struggling to understand how a shooting could occur and why such a terrible thing would happen. There may never be satisfactory answers to these questions.

We do know, though, that it is typical for people to experience a variety of emotions following such a traumatic event. These feelings can include shock, sorrow, numbness, fear, anger, disillusionment, grief and others. You may find that you have trouble sleeping, concentrating, eating or remembering even simple tasks. This is common and should pass after a while. Over time, the caring support of family and friends can help to lessen the emotional impact and ultimately make the changes brought about by the tragedy more manageable. You may feel that the world is a more dangerous place today than you did yesterday. It will take some time to recover your sense of equilibrium.

Meanwhile, you may wonder how to go on living your daily life. You can strengthen your resilience — the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity — in the days and weeks ahead.

Here are some tips:

  • Talk about it. Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Receiving support and care can be comforting and reassuring. It often helps to speak with others who have shared your experience so you do not feel so different or alone.
  • Strive for balance. When a tragedy occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and have a negative or pessimistic outlook. Balance that viewpoint by reminding yourself of people and events which are meaningful and comforting, even encouraging. Striving for balance empowers you and allows for a healthier perspective on yourself and the world around you.
  • Turn it off and take a break. You may want to keep informed, but try to limit the amount of news you take in whether it’s from the Internet, television, newspapers or magazines. While getting the news informs you, being overexposed to it can actually increase your stress. The images can be very powerful in reawakening your feeling of distress. Also, schedule some breaks to distract yourself from thinking about the incident and focus instead on something you enjoy. Try to do something that will lift your spirits.
  • Honor your feelings. Remember that it is common to have a range of emotions after a traumatic incident. You may experience intense stress similar to the effects of a physical injury. For example, you may feel exhausted, sore or off balance.
  • Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest and build physical activity into your day. Avoid alcohol and drugs because they can suppress your feelings rather than help you to manage and lessen your distress. In addition, alcohol and drugs may intensify your emotional or physical pain. Establish or re-establish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program. If you are having trouble sleeping, try some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
  • Help others or do something productive. Locate resources in your community on ways that you can help people who have been affected by this incident, or have other needs. Helping someone else often has the benefit of making you feel better, too.
  • If you have recently lost friends or family in this or other tragedies. Remember that grief is a long process. Give yourself time to experience your feelings and to recover. For some, this might involve staying at home; for others it may mean getting back to your daily routine. Dealing with the shock and trauma of such an event will take time. It is typical to expect many ups and downs, including “survivor guilt” — feeling bad that you escaped the tragedy while others did not.

For many people, using the tips and strategies mentioned above may be sufficient to get through the current crisis. At times, however an individual can get stuck or have difficulty managing intense reactions. A licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist can assist you in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living.

Recovering from such a tragic event may seem difficult to imagine. Persevere and trust in your ability to get through the challenging days ahead. Taking the steps in this guide can help you cope at this very difficult time.

 

This tip sheet was made possible with help from the following APA members: Dewey Cornell, PhD, Richard A. Heaps, PhD, Jana Martin, PhD, H. Katherine O’Neill, PhD, Karen Settle, PhD, Peter Sheras, PhD, Phyllis Koch-Sheras, PhD, and members of Div. 17.