Counseling With Creativity: For Traumatic Wounds That Cannot Heal




There’s something about art therapy that soothes the mind and calms the soul, creating a serene, safe space where people can freely express painful recollections that made significant changes in their lives.


Expression of creativity engages a specific part of the brain that allows processing of traumatic experiences in a different light. Even the most nightmarish incidences are conveyed and tackled without judgment coupled with the panicky, anxious reactions. No wonder counseling services for post-traumatic stress disorder patients have been suggesting art therapy because the method deals with repressed, traumatic memories that people usually have a hard time dealing with, leading to potential recovery and healing.


The Nature Of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a kind of mental health condition that, according to statistics, is a widespread phenomenon which can be experienced by everyone.


“PTSD comes from some type of traumatic event,” explained Colleen Cira, PsyD, a psychologist who specializes in women and trauma. “It can include things like war, car accidents, rape, physical assault, or even verbal and emotional abuse.


Six out of ten men, or about 60% of the US population, have experienced a traumatic episode in their lives mostly due to combat, accidents, injury, death, disaster, and physical assault. On the other hand, five out of 10 women, or 50% of the American population, have experienced trauma that is more likely due to physical and sexual abuse.


The point is PTSD is a common occurrence that can be experienced by all genders at any given age. However, trauma is not a sign that a person is weak; it’s just proof that there are situations and bodily reactions that people cannot control and have to be addressed the soonest possible time before the disorder takes over their lives.


The Healing Effects Of Creativity

Although there are various forms of counseling techniques that can help ease up the nightmares that keep people with PTSD awake at night, art therapy is a highly popular suggestion in the therapeutic field for particular reasons.




Art Breaks Unspeakable Bounds

A usual occurrence for people who have PTSD is inability or hesitancy to discuss the incident verbally, even during sessions with a therapist. Repressing emotions and thoughts are one of the main reasons why this occurs. Expressive arts therapy achieves more output than other treatments when dealing with PTSD patients because here, much transition can be obtained even if words are not spoken. Creativity is the medium that serves as a bridge between the traumatized person and the therapist by allowing restrained emotions to resurface, be explored, and resolved in a non-confronting, comforting manner.


Joshua Smyth, PhD, wrote, “The creative therapies, including art, music, drama, and bodyoriented approaches, are a diverse set of techniques that hold in common that thoughts and feelings about a trauma are represented without verbal descriptions of the event(s). Visual and auditory stimuli are used to symbolize the pain and suffering that result from trauma (such as fear, horror, loneliness, and distrust), and the process of expressing oneself is often more important than the finished product.”


Each technique is carefully selected, depending on the severity of the situation that the person has been through. While people may not hear what the person wants to say, their bottled-up emotions are ingrained in the artwork that they do, which probably provides more insight on what’s going on inside a person than just speaking with a therapist.


Art Explores The Unexplored

“Finding the words to express trauma is a common challenge for trauma survivors. Creative arts therapies can bridge the shattered memory or painful emotion, and a cognitive-linguistic expression of the traumatic experience,” said Marni Rosen, PsyD, a trauma therapist at the Post Traumatic Stress Center (PTSC) in New Haven, Connecticut.

An unconscious mind is a mysterious place; it’s the part of the brain that is usually unexplored but holds in secrets, disturbing events, and painful memories that people lock away. One of the coping mechanisms that the brain does when people have experienced trauma is to send those thoughts and emotions into the unconscious to make life more bearable for those who have PTSD. This occurrence is often manifested by people who claim to have no reminiscence of unpleasant events that happened in the past.




Art therapists believe that counseling my means of creative expression taps into the person’s unconscious memories and thoughts, resurfacing them, so that individuals with PTSD can deal with them, ultimately expunging them from their minds, and being healed in the process.