Trauma lives in a place that can be very difficult to reach with normal words and language or description, and might only be accessed, initially at least, through the ‘symptoms’.
At best trauma can manifest in indescribable anxiety, a sick feeling or a heavy, empty ache … either quite randomly or as the result of a smell, a place – or even someone’s expression! At worst, trauma can meet you through uncontrollable rage, addiction or life-limiting behaviour. Sometimes all of this and more …
In order to reach the trauma – to give a tangible, external form – you must find a safe way to express it. A qualified expressive arts therapist combines psychology and the creative process to promote emotional growth and healing.
This intermodal approach to psychotherapy and counselling utilises our inherent desire to use our creativity as a therapeutic tool’ to help the desired shift occur. I myself can attest to this desire to bring something from the inside world – out into the external world – sometimes not knowing what drives that desire until it is on the page.
The difference between expressive arts therapy and art therapy is that expressive arts therapy draws from a variety of art forms, while art therapy tends to be based on one particular art form (such as writing, painting, music or dance). Access to these therapeutic options will be dependant on where you live in the world and which one you chose will also depend on your own preferences and leanings (rather than one being much more effective than the other).
Perhaps as a child, I knew on some level that I had the tools within to make sense of the events in my life – and have made sense of them through a lifetime of writing. However, when it comes to my own ‘therapy’ I don’t use writing exclusively. I love colour, I love painting and listening to music – so I will dip in and out of those as the mood dictates. If I am really having a bad day, I know I want to write – but I just can’t quite face it – I may just sit down with a blank sheet of paper and create a palette of colours that bring my joy. Somehow seeing those on the page, without any structure whatsoever, helps shift something within me and I might then move on to some stream of consciousness writing. Over time, you will come to know the pathway to your own release. You will feel inside what works for you.