PTSD Therapy: Healing Through Art

Posted by Michele Rosenthal

Monday, October 22nd, 2012 • PTSD Guest Post: Survivors Speak

Guest post by Kate Storm

Some of the many difficult issues that may result from trauma, especially prolonged childhood trauma, are emotional dysregulation and problems with recognizing and expressing feelings. There are multiple ways to address these struggles – through various therapies or journaling – but there’s a very simple but powerful tool that can be added to these methods that you may not have tried yet: Art.

In my own experiences, I have found creative expression to be a very effective and helpful healing tool. I struggle a lot with describing how I feel… and I feel a lot. Trauma comes with scores of overwhelming feelings, e.g. fear, rage, helplessness. All of these together create a painful state of existence, especially when you can’t name or release any of them. For a while, I tried journaling in an attempt to express some of these feelings. However, words couldn’t seem to adequately express what was going on inside of my head. And then my therapist suggested art.

Art is a wonderful means of expression when sometimes there are just no words for whatever mix of emotions you’re experiencing. Art allowed me to finally release out of myself and onto paper, some of the pain, sadness, anger, disgust, horror, and despair that I was feeling. It allowed me to finally let go of some of the burden that I was constantly carrying around with me.

You don’t have to be “good” at art to find benefit from it. Even using just a regular #2 pencil on a piece of notebook paper can help. You can just draw scribbles or stick figures on the paper… It doesn’t have to look like a Monet for you to get something out of it. The only goal is to somehow turn your inner feelings into a physical outward expression. Some of the benefit may even just come from the way you move your hand across the paper. And then the end result of looking at the paper and being able to see how you feel on something that is in the outside world makes it seem less scary and lonely. Once it’s on paper, you may even find that you can now describe the feelings that you see in front of you!

Art can be expressed in so many different ways that everyone can find something that they enjoy. I personally enjoy using oil pastels – it’s like using crayons for adults – but others may like to sculpt things with clay, carve wood or create origami –  there are just so many options.

The best part about art is that it can be done almost anywhere. Outside? Grab a stick and start drawing in the dirt. In a meeting? Pretend you’re taking notes and doodle on the side of the page. Stuck in bed? Start creating a sculpture out of your comforter and pillows.

I have found art so helpful in my healing process that I decided to create a blog to share my journey through art. I wanted to help others who may not understand PTSD, to see what it feels like to have it. And I wanted to help those with PTSD who also aren’t able to express how they feel through words, by showing those emotions through a different medium.

I just want to encourage you to express yourself! Find your voice through art!

You can find my blog at: http://theptsddance.blogspot.com/

The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele.

Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “PTSD Therapy: Healing Through Art”

  1. Giuseppe says:

    Please check out the Grenade series at http://www.laboratoriodigiuseppe.com/current-works.html

    There are a series of photographs which illustrate the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on soldiers and their families.

    • Michele says:

      @Guiseppe — Terrific link, thanks for posting it! I think art is such an amazing form of creating community experience. I used to be a playwright; it made me feel the same way.

Leave a Reply