Unfortunately, trauma is something we all deal with in our lives. Some people can recall one specific event that intensely impacted them, while others can list off traumatic events they’ve been through. Despite that trauma affects everyone in different ways, the good news is that healing is possible! Creative arts methods can help people healthily process and express the hard things they’ve been through. Before we discuss the specific ways creative arts methods can aid in trauma treatment, we first need to examine what trauma is and how it affects the body.
Trauma is something that affects everyone in different ways. It is subjective, which means that two people can have the same experience and only one of them may view it as traumatic. As the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) explains, “A traumatic event is a shocking, scary, or dangerous experience that can affect someone emotionally and physically.” They go on to describe that the following events could be considered traumatic:
How trauma impacts someone depends on various factors such as the type of event as well as the person’s traumatic history. After a traumatic event, people can struggle with various symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms subside after a few weeks, but for others, the symptoms can control their lives.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop following a traumatic event. It causes a person to feel consistently anxious, threatened, or in danger, even though the traumatic event has passed. Symptoms of PTSD can begin at any time after the event. For some, symptoms start immediately, while for others, symptoms won’t surface for weeks, months, or years following the traumatic event.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains, “PTSD is often related to the seriousness of the trauma, whether the trauma was repeated or not, what the individual’s proximity to the trauma was, and what their relationship is with the victim or perpetrator of the trauma.” SAMHSA goes on to detail that symptoms of PTSD can include:
Though PTSD symptoms can be difficult to deal with, the good news is that there is hope for healing.
The most common technique used to treat symptoms of trauma and PTSD is psychotherapy. This form of talk therapy is used by licensed clinicians to help patients verbally process the difficult things they’ve been through. Clinicians use different methods of psychotherapy to equip the patient with tools so they can healthily deal with their feelings.
In addition to psychotherapy, clinicians may also use other therapeutic techniques to give patients a healthy outlet to express themselves. Two common techniques used – in addition to evidence-based therapies – are music therapy and art therapy.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) explains, “Music therapy is the process of using songs and instruments to help achieve therapeutic goals in a clinical setting.” Music has a way of helping us feel understood and less alone. It also causes the brain to respond in unique ways, evoking strong memories and emotions. As a result, music can be used to help process difficult feelings and memories.
Some people write music as a way to communicate their feelings, as this is often easier than trying to place one’s feelings into words. Others use music as a way to escape from their reality. No matter how music is used, it often results in deep satisfaction and joy. This is because when music is heard, certain parts of the brain become activated that are typically associated with feelings of reward.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Directors Blog confirms, “…neuroscientists have found that certain brain cells release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control reward and pleasure, both before and during the times that people listen to musical passages with the power to give them ‘the chills.” Additionally, an article in Neuroimage explains, “The enhanced functional and effective connectivity between brain regions mediating reward, autonomic, and cognitive processing provides insight into understanding why listening to music is one of the most rewarding and pleasurable human experiences.”
Music therapists can become an essential part of the healing journey. As previously stated, it’s important to remember that music therapy is typically meant to be a complementary therapeutic technique, used in tandem with other evidence-based techniques. Additionally, music therapy should only be conducted by licensed professionals, like the ones at Sage Recovery. Since music therapy is powerful and can evoke strong reactions, it can be helpful to be guided and supported by professionals who specialize in creative arts methods.
Another creative art method that can be used in conjunction with other therapeutic techniques is art therapy. As an article in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews explains, “Art therapy allows exploration of the patient’s inner world in a non-threatening way through a therapeutic relationship and the use of art materials. It was mainly developed in adult psychiatric inpatient units and was designed for use with people for whom verbal psychotherapy would be impossible.”
Moreover, art therapy allows patients to express themselves without having to use words. This can be beneficial for patients who struggle to speak about what they’ve been through or don’t have words to describe how they feel. Similar to music, art has the power to evoke strong emotional responses. As a result, it should only be administered by professionals, like the ones at Sage Recovery.
Trauma is something that many of us will experience in our lifetime. While it can sometimes be difficult to deal with, it doesn’t have to control your life. Here at Sage Recovery, our trauma-informed licensed clinicians are experts in healing from hard things. Our customized treatment plans help empower you to find your own healing path and embrace the unique qualities that make you who you are. Whether you need to heal from trauma, SUD, anxiety, or a mental disorder, we can help. We offer residential and outpatient treatment, including partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs. Whenever you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to us at (512) 306-1394. We’re here to help.