An Exploration into Trauma

by Charmaine Husum

How can using one art therapy activity which integrates all three stages of trauma therapy as outlined by Judith Herman (1992b), help survivors of trauma and abuse heal? What precautions need to be made to assure safety and stabilization are established and felt throughout?

This thesis is an exploration and discussion on the integration and benefits of Focusing- Orientated Art therapy (FOAT), mindfulness and the 3 stages of trauma therapy (Herman, 1992b) into an activity which functions to increase safety and stabilization and healing from trauma and abuse. This activity was an emergent adaptation of one created by Laury Rappaport (1998). With a here-and-now focus on the adaptation and responsive approach this art directive took during session, we will look at the process used by a group of women who were working on healing years of abuse and Complex Post-traumatic Stress (C-PTSD) symptoms.

A key component of this discussion is the relating of pertinent theory to the process of art therapy in a group setting working with survivors. The need for staying in the here-and-now becomes evident as we explore the way the directive unfolded in session. Establishing safety was paramount and imperative when working with this population. I will highlight the benefits and effectiveness of the directive in the final discussion by connecting the art making process to relevant theory.

This art directive has also been explored within the context of relevant theory of attachment (Bowlby, 1969, 1988), feminist (Brown, 2004, 2010), trauma informed (Herman, 1992b; Malchiodi, 2015; Van Der Kolk, 2014) and Focusing-Orientated (FOT) (Gendlin, 1978) therapies. The integration of creating a resource image and connecting to a ‘felt sense’ with the use of mindfulness and connecting to a higher power became a significant part of this directive in response to client needs. A focus on therapeutic interventions and the various obstacles and challenges that may come up when working in this area will also be investigated.