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Healing from trauma can be a difficult thing to do, with the process sometimes taking years. While most advice has good intentions, taking prescriptions and shuffling from one doctor (or therapy session) to another can make you feel even more isolated and less human.
This is where art comes in. It’s no question that art has the power to move us emotionally; time and time again we’ve seen or heard of people moved to tears upon witnessing great art. Whether looking at it or actively making it, this restorative quality of art can be a great asset to helping survivors of trauma move on.
Art is open-ended
One of the beautiful things about art is its openness, with particular pieces gaining different definitions and value depending on the viewer. Such an openness is also useful when it comes to making art. Art therapist Angel Duncan praises this aspect of the practice, as art therapy programs can often be catered to the needs of the individual.
It’s easier to motivate someone with something they’re interested in doing, and the range of art practices allows survivors to dabble in whatever they want to explore. They can also opt to talk through their creative process, thus reflecting on their feelings in a constructive manner.
Art creates communities
Group sessions, be it painting or music-making, allow survivors to enter into a community where their traumatic past isn’t the center of attention. Unlike talk therapy sessions where participants are encouraged to share their feelings, art therapy can be a way for people to express themselves without necessarily talking through their trauma.
Art therapy is just as effective even when done one-on-one. Maryville University psychologists continue to examine the link between mental health and learning development, which confirms that therapy can indeed be beneficial to people's personal progress. For survivors, this means that the physical process of making art can be a way for patients to subconsciously take charge of their recovery by taking up a new skill.
Art can help with anxiety
Art therapy can help assuage anxieties within adults, according to researchers from the University of Applied Sciences Leiden. Such an effect can be attributed to a lot of factors. Certain colors are seen as calming, and the simple act of coloring shapes allows the individual to focus solely on the task at hand.
Even just looking at art can be extremely healing. In this regard, Sunday Times outlines the continued emergence of art in hospitals. Researchers are still finding out what kind of art helps best, with some noting that even abstract art can inspire reflection and relaxation in viewers. Moreover, studies have shown that just being surrounded by art can do wonders in curbing anxiety.
Working through trauma can often feel like a set of tasks you need to complete in order to consider yourself ‘recovered,’ such as feeling like you need to open up to people even when you might not be ready. Art does away with such boundaries, granting freedom of expression and giving survivors an outlet that provides a healing escape.
Article written for hteverywhere.com by Lily Anna