Artwork by Jennifer Awad
Written by Jennifer Awad, MA, ATR-P, LPC-I with The Art Station
Trauma takes on many forms, names, lengths of time and can happen to anyone at any age. Its impact is deep and life changing, causing feelings of overwhelming helplessness for those whom it affects. Living day in and day out under this heavy cloud can make one wonder if there is any hope. Is healing even possible? How do we get there? Where do we start?
These questions are real and valid, and the truth is, yes, there is hope and healing is possible. There is a way to come out of our dark and lonely struggle, into the light of a shared journey with people who are there to help support those particularly important first steps.
As a trauma-informed art therapist, creating a supportive space for this shared journey to unfold is a daily work of compassionate attentiveness and thoughtful, creative interactions with each client as they work towards gained insight, recovery, and healing.
Art Therapy and Trauma
Conventional talk therapy is typically seen as client and therapist sitting across from each other and verbally discussing a presenting issue. It is an effective form of therapy for many people however, sometimes words fall short when attempting to describe the details and effects of deeply painful feelings caused by the traumatic experience.
This is where art therapists whose specialized training and approach offer the benefits of creativity within the therapeutic process, can be helpful. To be clear, taking time to draw, paint or color in a book in order to relax is not art therapy. We use art-making along with conventional talk therapy tools as an integrated approach for the therapeutic work coming out of the art-making experience.
The benefit of this integration helps facilitate communication when words are hard to find. By using various art materials like paint, markers, pencils, and clay, to name a few, along with the guidance from an art therapist, art-making can open up layers in a client’s process that is much more expansive.
Artwork by Jennifer Awad
How it Works
When recalling a traumatic memory to share with an art therapist, an individual can find it difficult to move past the very painful feelings that surface and their paralyzing effect on the ability to communicate clearly. Artmaking can help release these intense feelings, causing relaxation and opportunities for insight that can make room for an increased capacity of verbal communication. We call this “creating distance” between a client and their trauma, enough to help recover their ability to find words while discussing those difficult details through their artwork. This art-making process can also affect other layers simultaneously such as increased emotional stability and sense of safety while working through the traumatic event.
It is important to mention that an art therapist does not interpret a client’s artwork. After all, the client is the artist and in turn the only one who knows the context of the art piece. It is equally important to note that artistic talent and ability is not necessary when it comes to expressing thoughts and feelings visually. An art therapist will always encourage a client to focus on the expression rather than the product, to not disqualify nor discredit the significance of the work happening during the session.
Through the process of describing their artwork, a client can potentially find empowerment through gained insights, find words to describe and process their buried feelings more easily, therefore experiencing therapeutic benefits that become building blocks towards their recovery and healing.
Finding an Art Therapist
The Art Station has been serving the community since 2003. It is the only community-based nonprofit providing art therapy in Tarrant County and last year alone, we served more than 8,000 clients.
Our art therapists have dual masters-level education, training and licensing in both trauma-focused and trauma-informed art therapy and counseling, helping clients with a broad range of life challenges such as adverse childhood experiences, family & relationship issues, anxiety, depression, trauma (including Veterans with PTSD), emotional regulation, substance abuse, and much more.
We work with children (ages 6 and up), adolescents and adults and are accepting new clients. For more information and to book an appointment please call us at 817-921-2401.
We look forward to working with you, our community, and would be honored to be partners in your journey towards recovery and healing.