Use of Art Therapy in Treating Children with Trauma Disorder

Art therapy is a kind of treatment process which involves art process, art products as well as art media in communication within the therapy and can be effectively used to treat patient with trauma. Professionals in art therapy are equipped with necessary skills and experience to handle patients or clients in psychiatric, rehabilitation as well as in education setup. An art based trauma management works well with children with trauma especially when the survivors are unable to speak depending with the nature of the trauma.

Without discrediting Alternatives therapy such as the verbal language approach for the use of art in trauma treatment, it is important to note that such therapy may at times generate even more distress and frustration. Using art material in art therapy is advantageous in that it allows one to access the inner experience of the child without relying on verbal communication in the first place (ATA, 2007). Appropriate use of art therapy entails training of clinician and other medical personnel on integrating the basics principles of effective trauma management and treatment within an art therapy framework.

Art therapist views the human body as a theatre (McFarlane & Lars, 2005), where the trauma memory is re enacted. The new knowledge about neurobiology of trauma and requires an understanding that physical action is essential in initiating perception and determine behavior pattern in child trauma. Bessel (2002) emphasizes that art therapy program can help deal even with the worst situation of traumatic experience and also come out with new ways of coping.

By integrating human development and visual arts (painting, drawing ,sculpture and other forms of art) and models of psychotherapy and counseling, art therapy enable assessment the following health problems in children, adolescent, adult and families of all ages: mental and emotional problems, anxiety, depression, addictions such as substance abuse; abuse and domestic violence; family and relationship affairs; social and emotional problems associated to illness and disabilities; loss and trauma, anger, fear and guilt; physical, psychological, cognitive and neurological problems associated to medical illness.

It is essentials that proper art therapy facilities are used including use of experimental workshops. A comprehensive art therapy program is the most credible support for providing the base for art therapist Training and practice. Part of work in art therapy is to diagnose or to establish the source of trauma by use of images which are not re-traumatizing to the patient. The goal of the images used in art therapy should be to bring all senses, creativity and movement into the trauma work.

Art making experience like drawing competency is an added advantage for art therapist as well as trauma clinicians. Other skills such as creativity, attentiveness to small details, listening ability and patience should come in handy in the use of art process. Strickland (2008) present a case study of a 12 year old child awaiting bone marrow transplant in Tracy kids, a hospital funded by prevent cancer foundation. The doctor used a puppet he referred to as Dr Bones and gave to the child.

In the process of playing with the puppet the child revealed the terror he held that his bone will be removed. The doctor also an art therapist used the opportunity to correct the misconception. In one of the historical quotes, Dr Levy quotes “I don’t know of any job, specifically, for art therapists, but I don’t know any art therapist out of work. ” (Durk, 2006) At Georgetown University, Tracy council, an art therapist and the person who developed Tracy kid’s art therapy program recalls a project by an eleven years old patient who was suffering from lymphoma.

Out of isolation for months waiting for a bone marrow transformation the child constructed a sarcophagus sculpture with clay. While glazing the mummy looking thing with red like blood color the child explained that the sculpture served as a way of expressing anger for everything he had been through into art and also according to him is an excellent way for him to “get finished and go” (ATA, 2007). But according to McFarlane and Lars (2005), convectional medicine presents a lot of criticism regarding art therapy as a way of trauma and other diseases treatment.

Art therapy rely mostly on beliefs and theories as opposed to scientific facts a thing that leaves a wide gap for speculation and criticism. Medical personnel recognize the approach as a contradictory one. However researchers in medical field are beginning to realize that there is need for more research by testing the evidence based study for art therapy. The approach is rooted on the assumption that while integrating visual art, music, writing and performance into clinical care setting one can increase the feelings of well-being and even improve health.

Medical researchers are now beginning to recognize the need to test with evidence-based studies the trueness of these assumptions (Durk, 2006). Art therapist programs can be found in several settings which include hospitals, private and public agencies, clinics, wellness centers, educational institutions and businesses. Professionals in art therapy are qualified and a person wishing to pursue such a course can do so even at master level. The course exposed the student to counseling and psychotherapy as well as ethics, principles and standard of art therapy.

Also research methods, human and creative development, multicultural issues and practicum should be part of the course to enable to offer the student with necessary skills in serving as an art therapy (Strickland, 2008) Despite the fact that the entire health sector is embracing technology by use of high tech medicine while abandoning the communal rituals and theatre as old techniques of dealing with trauma, the contemporary therapeutic art therapy can be considered a basic paradigm shift.


America Art Therapy Association (ATA) (2007). About art therapy. Retrieved November 18 2008 from http: //www. arttherapy. org/aboutart. htm Bessel V. K (2002). The World Impact of Art care: The Role of Somatic Experience and Purposefulness. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press Durk, W (2006). Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming. Retrieved November 18 2008 from http://schoolofvisualarts. edu/sva/media/7054/small/ArtTherapyConfrProg. pdf McFarlane, A. , Lars, W (2005). Experience on Mind, Body, and Society. Yale: University Press. Strickland, C (2008) Adventures in Art Therapy: Importance of Medical Art. Retrieved November 18 2008 from http://arttherapist. blogspot. com/

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