“’Trauma means a serious disruption in your way of seeing yourself and the world,’ says Women’s College Hospital psychotherapist and art therapist Eva-Marie Stern. ‘Trauma rips apart your sense of who you are, what you know, and what you can trust.’”
Those who suffer from abuse know this all too well and art therapist Christine Hennig has spent her career helping them heal through art. She recently shared five benefits of Trauma-Informed Art Therapy (T-IAT) for adult survivors of sexual abuse. We’ve summarized each one for you.
Five Ways Art Therapy Helps Heal from Abuse
One: Gaining Access to Traumatic Memories and Encouraging Disclosure
The mind has many ways of concealing memories of abuse. Whether Hennig’s clients suffer from alexithymia or Dissociative Identity Disorder, T-IAT has been able to provide a contained, safe environment for them to access and share those memories non-verbally.
Two: Dealing with Developmental Issues
When a child is sexually abused, it can often lead to gaps in developmental stages. According to Hennig, this can be addressed with the non-verbal nature of T-IAT. She points to recent research that associates problems with affective regulation with disturbed attachments with caregivers in early childhood. It also links affective regulation tasks with the right side of the brain, which is organized non-verbally.
Three: Reconnecting with Others Through Sharing One’s Artistic Expressions with Others
One of the effects of trauma is that it inhibits victims from connecting with other people. Because creative arts can evoke empathy more effectively than just words, T-IAT has proven to be effective in restoring the ability to connect with others.
Four: Other Benefits Found in Research Studies and Case Reports
T-IAT has numerous other benefits including: raised self-esteem, reduced frequency and severity of nightmares, reduced symptoms of depression, and an overall improvement in symptom severity.
Five: Reports of the Healing Power of Art-Making by Adult Survivors Who Are Artists
Perhaps, the most important benefit of T-IAT is simply that it helps people heal. Artists Jane Orleman and Francie Lyshak-Stelzer were both able to utilize T-IAT and eventually write books detailing their healing processes.