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Kathryn Bottitta — September 30, 2023

From The Our Wave Toolkit: Using Creativity For Healing

Kathryn Bottitta

When considering what lies in our survivor ‘toolkits,’ we often leave out the power of our innate creativity. When it may be hard to describe how you feel or think, turning to creativity and the arts can be a great way to express yourself. Art therapy is a new method of healing in the advocacy space, which has grown in popularity for both children and adults. 

Art Therapy As A Tool For Survivors

According to a 2022 study, the relatively young field of art therapy utilizes the creation of images in therapy through a variety of art media as a tool for intra and interpersonal communication in the therapeutic space. When survivors may not be able to express how they feel verbally, the creation of art can serve as a physical representation of what they cannot say out loud. The nonverbal expression within different materials acts as a way to externally represent how a survivor feels internally when words may not be able to express it. The art created can represent the subconscious, and the act of creating connects the mind with the body. The act of art therapy has been proven to lessen the intensity of symptoms of anxiety and stress and has improved self-concept. Art therapy also serves as a way to reintroduce and reintegrate traumatic topics in a digestible way for survivors. 

Types of Art Therapy

Art therapy can be done in several mediums, such as painting, photography, sculptures, drawing, and music. The physical manipulation of materials releases built-up tension in the body facilitates relaxation, and increases the ability to tolerate and handle stress. It also provides a sense of control, as the survivor is the one dictating what the art looks like and what it represents. This release of creativity also gives the artist a sense of purpose and pulls focus and attention away from traumatic events.

Using Art Therapy To Heal From Trauma

Using creativity for healing can be an individual endeavor, or survivors can connect with professional art psychotherapists who are trained to discuss the potential meanings within the art created. There are multiple art therapy options in the Triangle area, as well as digital art therapy exercises available. Research on the effectiveness of art therapy and how it relates to those who have experienced traumatic experiences is a growing field. Studies have also shown the resources in art therapy for children ages 4-14 impacted by family violence. Utilizing creativity can lend a hand in accepting and understanding our feelings, and by channeling our emotions into art, the healing process can be understood and represented visually. 

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