Processing Trauma Through Art: The Benefits of Art Therapy For Trauma

Last Update on May 31, 2023 : Published on May 31, 2023
Art Therapy For Trauma

The last few advancements in the field of psychology have allowed us to experience the benefits of expressive arts and creative expression. With new research and studies, we’ve seen how art can be used as a beneficial form of therapy, especially for people living with trauma and post-trauma stress.

Art therapy for trauma and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) has given people a platform to work through the most distressing memories and symptoms they carry in their hearts and express their feelings and emotions, which are not always easy to talk about.

If you’re looking for an alternative treatment or a supplementary approach to treat trauma or ease the symptoms of trauma, then art therapy brings a multitude of benefits.

And the best part is that you don’t have to be a pro at art to try art therapy! All you need to have been the determination to share your feelings and emotions through art. Let’s see how creative art therapy can help heal trauma and PTSD.

Art Therapy And Trauma

Art Therapy And Trauma-min

Art therapy is a creative approach to therapy that combines creative expression with psychotherapy or talk therapy. This approach to treatment is led by a mental health professional only as the aim of art therapy is to help the clients address their emotional issues through creativity and art forms including (but not limited to) dance, painting, music, sculpting, and more.

Art therapy has been proven to improve cognitive and motor functions, increase self-esteem, boost self-awareness, better emotional resilience, enhance social skills, and reduce day-to-day distress.

Even if you’re a newbie to art or creative skills, you can benefit from art therapy. The idea behind art therapy isn’t to create professional-level or even aesthetically pleasing art but to dig deeper into your inner self and express your emotions and feelings that you can’t with words or through a talk therapy session.

With the help of an art therapist, you can figure out how to address and treat emotional wounds, express repressed memories, and process emotions caused by trauma, anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders.

Brain And Body’s Response to Trauma

Brain And Body’s Response to Trauma-min

The trauma we experience is a response to a distressing situation. Anything that causes you severe mental and/or emotional distress can cause trauma such as being a witness to an accident, being in a car accident, racial discrimination, being a victim of a hate crime, and so on. Trauma can leave distressing effects on our health and well-being.

Some of the common effects of trauma can include;

  • Poor sleep
  • Panic attacks
  • Social withdrawal
  • Thinking intrusive thoughts
  • Being on edge all the time
  • Becoming easily startled
  • Being hyper-alert all the time, and more

Our brains can react differently to traumatic events. An old study, where neuroimaging was used, found that people with PTSD showed neurological changes aka their brain functions changed after the trauma. The common changes were related to emotional memory and speech. People with past trauma showed trouble discussing and processing their experiences.

Even though we can be good with our words, there could still be some experiences that need more than just spoken words to express and process the feelings and emotions we experience.

When it comes to our body’s response to trauma, it can come through a phenomenon called “somatization”. Yes, just like our brain, our body also holds the effects of trauma. It is not always easy or even doable to express your emotions verbally, especially when the recounting is related to a severely traumatic event.

Survivors of sexual trauma and childhood trauma live with repressed memories and with time, they may forget or feel unable to recall what haunts them. However, their brain and body remember. Art therapy can allow them to bring forth repressed memories and begin healing. This can gradually help them regain their sense of trust and help them build healthy relationships once again.

Unaddressed trauma can manifest as chronic illnesses, prolonged sleep issues, frequent aches and pains, and more. With the help of art therapy and creative expression, these issues can start dissipating. Another added advantage of art therapy is that it can act as a mindfulness technique that can help calm your breathing and bring your awareness back to the present.

The Benefits of Art Therapy For Trauma

Benefits of Art Therapy For Trauma-min

It’s hard to talk about trauma with a stranger even if they are your therapist, especially if you’re new to therapy. If you’ve been living with prolonged trauma or experience trauma symptoms frequently, then art therapy can be beneficial for you. Even if you’ve experienced childhood trauma, then art therapy can help you heal those old wounds.

For trauma survivors, other treatment options can include;

Many a time, people living with trauma keep things locked away to protect themselves, so using art therapy for trauma allows them to relax into the process and let go of past hurt, slowly. Even then, how art therapy is integrated into the healing process may depend on the therapist. Every therapist has their own way of structuring the therapy session, but some might give the clients the choice of picking their creative platform.

If art therapy is something you’re interested in engaging with, then you can reach out to your nearest mental health provider or talk about your preferred approach with a trauma-informed therapist.

Final Words…

Talking about trauma with others can be daunting and exceptionally difficult when you live with PTSD. With art therapy and creative expression, you can learn to deal with the aftermath and symptoms of trauma and even post-trauma stress. Art therapy allows you to visualize your distress and express them in ways you can’t with words.

There’s a lot to explore with art and creative expression. Art therapy for trauma can have various benefits including allowing a safe separation from traumatic experiences. Effectively using art therapy can allow you to dig deeper within and access parts that you felt were unattainable otherwise.

If you want to give art therapy a try, then it is recommended you speak to a professional to understand the process and healing. You can also connect with a therapist by clicking the link below.


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  • $60 to $90/week, billed every 4 weeks

  • Therapy via messaging, phone, or live video chat

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Take care and stay safe!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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