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Healing PTSD with Expressive Arts Therapy

Today is National PTSD Awareness Day. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that results from a traumatic event. Those who have PTSD are often triggered by memories of the traumatic event, which causes them to feel as if they are experiencing the event again, accompanied by feelings of intense anxiety/panic, touchiness, and/or disassociation.

In order to heal, those traumatic memories must be processed and digested. Because PTSD is mostly experienced through memories, emotions, and the body, traditional talk therapy does not always help. Expressive arts therapy, however, helps people with PTSD safely process these memories when it is difficult to find the right words to express how they feel.

Making artwork and reflecting on it helps you access different parts of your brain, creating more self-awareness and giving a voice to the traumatic experience through visual art. While painting, drawing, using clay, etc, you are allowing the area of your brain that stores trauma to wordlessly express itself.

Creative expression targets the right hemisphere and limbic system of the brain, which are visual, sensory and emotional in nature. (The right prefrontal cortex is deeply connected to the limbic areas of the brain and is central to affect regulation.) This allows art and imagery to circumvent psychological resistance, which is typically analytic in nature.

The Arts (in all their forms) also allow for the externalization of these very inner experiences and gives them shape and form outside the body and mind. Creativity gives expression to that which cannot, because of the structure of the brain, be spoken. This, in turn, provides an opportunity to re-imagine concepts of self and identity. Scientists have also discovered that the very act of creating – integrating the brain both vertically and horizontally – reduces anxiety, depression and pain, decreases blood pressure, strengthens immune functioning and improves attention and concentration.

Starting your own, personal expressive arts practice will help your mind in so many wonderful ways. Checkout this article here for creative prompts to help you get started. Additionally, Integrative Counsel hosts an Expressive Arts Group the first Thursday of every month. Our next group meets on July 2, 2020. For more information, checkout our groups page.


*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, nature, and learning about other people.

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