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Art Therapy & Trauma

Art Therapy is a place to reconnect to your story. If you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD or you have experienced a past trauma that continues to impact you today, you might benefit from art therapy.

You’ve probably heard about the left brain and right brain. This conceptual framework divides the brain’s processes. The left brain is your rational, thinking, planning mind and the right brain is your creative, intuitive and emotional mind. When people experience trauma, the left brain is impacted and has less awareness, and the right brain is reacting to past events as if they were happening right now (Van Der Kolk). We need both parts of our brain to help us stay grounded in reality, to not be bombarded by images, flashbacks and emotions without any ways to contain or manage them.

Art Therapy is a natural process for re-engaging both parts of the brain, and the physical body and sensations. An Art Therapist is trained to be carefully attuned to all the subtle cues that are happening in a client’s body. While a client begins to make art, the art therapist is sensitive to their process. Is the client starting to show symptoms of PTSD activation, is the client being triggered by the materials they are using, does the client need a moment to breathe, become grounded.

The therapeutic artwork made by a client has a rich story. This artwork can help externalize the story of the client, and it is now visible, outside of the mind, for the client and therapist to get to know. With the thoughtful, trauma-informed guidance of an Art Therapist, a client with PTSD can learn to process their trauma through art therapy.

Using physical art materials reconnects the client to using their body in a different way, and allows for a description of their experience without words. It is in this non-verbal place, that the process of healing from trauma can begin. Art Therapy is meant to be paced slowly, to include regulation tools along the way, and to bring to light new ways of knowing your own story.

Bi-lateral drawing is one Art Therapy technique available to aid in activating both sides of the brain. Try taking two different coloured drawing tools. I used both an orange and yellow pastel. Put one drawing tool in each hand, and start at the centre of your page. Begin to make lines. You will see that your brain automatically makes a mirror image, or close to, on each side. **Always be mindful of how your body is feeling during art making, as trauma can begin to present itself through various physical sensations, stop if you're not feeling well.***

Our brains are incredible! So much can be learned about how our minds and bodies are connected through making art.

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