Despite this challenge, the currently accepted stages of artistic development, especially with younger children, are still generally helpful and add valuable information not always apparent through talk therapy alone. Like play therapy, art therapy provides an opportunity to express metaphor through art expression. In fact, one of the strengths of both approaches is their ability to encourage and enhance storytelling and narratives.
Storytelling about a drawing, painting, collage or construction does not have to be literal to be therapeutic. In fact, a child who has experienced traumatic events or is challenged by an emotional disorder may only find it possible to generate imaginative stories. With the support and guidance of the therapist, these narratives serve as a way to slowly and safely release disturbing or terrorizing experiences.
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Right-Hemisphere-to-Right Hemisphere. Art expression, like play, adds to these positive relational experiences on multiple levels involving sensory, affective and cognitive channels of communication. This a very brief explanation of some of the reparative dynamics art therapy provides to children. But as the fields of art therapy and play therapy continue to expand knowledge about their effectiveness, the more we extend the possibilities for best practices with all children in need of help and healing.
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Some links on this website direct the visitor to websites controlled by others and any responsibility for such other sites is specifically disclaimed. Howe makes a comment p. If children are able to develop in a way which enables them to absorb experiences or store them until they are able to put meaning to them, it is more likely that they will reach their potential.
Children who are bombarded with traumatic events which they cannot process may be unable to progress satisfactorily. It may be that they need to repeat some of their developmental processes, in creative play therapy, before they can integrate the traumatic events to which they have been subjected. It may also be possible that when a safe environment is established, where young people can retrace earlier development, then they can repeat some of those traumatic events possibly in metaphor and so understand their meaning.
This would prevent the intrusion of unwanted memories, would change states of amnesia, would raise self-esteem, and thus many of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder would disappear. Note 1 I checked through the records of approximately 50 women, i. The resultant findings were discussed with my colleague, Prodgers, but were not written up.
Because of confidentiality, the original records will not now be available for perusal. Some of the women had been abusive or neglectful towards their children, but whatever the nature of the relationship, there was always a strong sense of the mutual importance of the interaction, even when it was hostile.
In my case, my creative arts background led me into using creative therapies and thus to recognize the similarities between this kind of therapy and the naturally occurring interactions between children and their caregivers. I was discovering the links between art and healing. The use of dance, song and ritual has been connected with healing throughout history, as has visual art, poetry and storytelling. Fairytales are doubtless metaphors for many truths, but they can only be understood in context.
Their deep significance in many cultures is clearly not confined to children.
How Art Therapy Supports Trauma Recovery
I have also used the folk tale The Lingworm with a year-old sexually abused boy Bannister , pp. More recently, in one of my research groups of 7—9-year-old children, they spontaneously used the story of The Three Little Pigs see Chapter Six. The same story was used by a five-year-old boy whom I saw in individual therapy Bannister , pp.
Dramatherapists such as Cattanach and Gersie have also documented their use of stories with children. Recognizing the relevance of fairy stories for abused children becomes obvious. The Cinderella story, for instance, which is known in many cultures in different disguises, epitomizes this, and is often chosen by abused children themselves in their enactments, both in play and in therapy Bannister , pp.
Indeed, Warner devotes a section of her study to analysis of a fairy story known as The Donkeyskin which tells the tale of a father who wishes to marry his daughter. She states that this story was widely told in many cultures probably first published in in France but has since been suppressed.
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The connection with child sexual abuse is made overt in the story. When such stories are acted out by children their bodies adopt the movements and posture of the fairytale characters.
Creative Therapies with Traumatized Children
This enhances their understanding, which is not necessarily cognitive. When adults tell such stories to children it is often during moments of closeness, when attachments are being made or reinforced.
Neuro-scientists tell us that the right brain hemisphere is concerned with artistic pursuits, whereas the left brain hemisphere influences more cognitive experiences. It may be that creative therapies, working from the right brain, help to make physical connections in our bodies.
The essential connection between our bodies and minds has been recognized by shamans in various cultures, in Chinese medicine and, more recently, in holistic treatments. Moreno, a psychiatrist living in Vienna during the s see Chapter One. It is interesting that he first discovered psychodrama by watching children playing in the public gardens of Vienna. The director is also the therapist and conducts the action which is determined by the protagonist or main actor , assisted by auxiliaries who may be trained therapists or may be other members of a therapeutic group.
Moreno also discovered sociometry through his interest in the relationships between people in groups and so psychodrama became a psychotherapeutic method which was largely practised in groups. However, the method can be used in one-to-one sessions by using inanimate objects instead of people.
This is where the similarities to play are most apparent as dolls and puppets, or even cushions and other objects, can be used to represent people, animals, buildings or simply ideas or concepts. Psychodrama can be used in many applications, not only with children and adolescents. It is commonly used with adults who have been sexually abused, with those who are suffering from alcohol or drug dependency, with sexual abusers and with people suffering from terminal illness see Holmes and Karp for examples of all these applications.
It may also be combined with other therapies, as I have done with dramatherapy and play therapy, and with other psychological theories.
Holmes , who is also a psychiatrist, combines object relations theory and psychodrama in his practice, especially with adolescents. Psychodramatists then, like most arts therapists, receive influences from many sources. He stressed the three developmental stages of finding identity, recognizing the self, and recognizing the other. These stages, which are normally facilitated in the child by the mother or main carer, can be damaged or delayed by traumatic experiences Herman Psychodrama uses the techniques of doubling, mirroring and role reversal to replicate those developmental stages and to allow healing or re-growth.
Research into psychodrama has proliferated during recent years. Since there have been more than 50 research papers published on the effects of psychodrama, several of them in Germany, where psychodrama is flourishing, and others published in the USA, India, Turkey, Spain, South America and the UK. Of particular relevance to my own research is a study by Carbonell and Parteleno-Barehmi describing psychodrama groups for girls coping with trauma, and several investigations by Hudgins and her colleagues Hudgins and Drucker ; Hudgins, Drucker and Metcalf , into psychodrama with sexual trauma.
All appeared to show the effectiveness of psychodramatic interventions with their particular client group. This is closely related to the developmental technique of doubling in psychodrama, which is a key component of my work with children. Other relevant research is by Mehdi, Sen and Sen , which studies the effect of psychodrama with depressed patients, since depression is a common symptom amongst adult women who have been sexually abused. More specifically, Pearson worked with adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the USA, using psychodrama effectively.
Ragsdale et al.
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Ruiz Lazaro, Velilla Picazo and Bonals Pi used psychodrama effectively with school children in a psychiatric unit. All these studies showed that psychodrama was a useful intervention. Dramatherapy Whilst psychodrama was already flourishing in the USA and parts of Europe from the s, dramatherapy was developing in the UK around the same time.
Peter Slade is often credited with the use of drama as therapy, which emerged from his work in education. Like Moreno he did not concentrate simply on therapeutic aspects of drama or of play, but more on their essential value in the nature of healthy growth. He understood the importance of rituals which children incorporate naturally into their play, and the value of fantasy. He makes it clear that both Personal and Projected Play continues, and is still very necessary for development, up to early adolescence. Dramatherapy was further developed by anthropologist Sue Jennings She describes a period in the early sixties in Britain when the application of drama within the educational framework began to direct itself towards work in clinical areas.
Jennings also describes many applications of the method, in groups or with individuals, with children and adults, with psychiatric patients and with elderly people, etc. Unlike psychodrama, dramatherapy does not usually have a single protagonist who overtly works through personal difficulties, within a group or one-to-one setting.
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