Creating Resilience with Art Therapy

When psychological trauma occurs, there is an intense fear and feeling of helplessness that can negatively impact a person’s quality of life.

When psychological trauma occurs, there is an intense fear and feeling of helplessness that can negatively impact a person’s quality of life. 

Trauma can permeate into the physical body and manifest itself as symptoms that are not able to be explained through medical testing and diagnosis.  This can correlate with the body’s maintaining the hyperarousal from stress and anticipation. Physical and mental health is reliant on the feeling of safety and stability.    

Through our art therapy programs, we seek to improve the knowledge of the subjective experience of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.  

The program focuses on improving the knowledge of the women’s reproductive health, increasing their psychological, physical, and emotional wellbeing; while working to heal, empower, cultivate resilience, teach self and affect regulation, and create positive changes in beliefs and attitudes. 

Figure 1: Art Therapy with Art to Healing.

Art is able to facilitate healing through the affected areas, the emotional and survival parts of the brain.  The program utilizes the creative process and the formation of artwork as a container for emotions; i.e., rage, pain, and shame.  

Positive change, be it in a client’s perception of themselves, their situation, and/or their behavior, may occur when one is able to tell their story through artwork, reframing how they feel, or producing a deliberate response to an event or experience.  

The art stands distinct and separate from the self to aid perspective, how and when change occurs depends on the client’s capacity and willingness to engage.  

In one of our individual art therapy program, this Cambodian survivor uses art and story to share her experience of discrimination, and her sense of boundaries and resilience.

Figure 2: My inner encouragement

“I am confused. My life is unexplainable and I don’t have anything, and I don’t know which way to go, or how to live.

The world is very confusing for me.

In the past, I was unhappy because I had many problems in my mind. I was lonely in my family and environment. This is an image of my confused mind. There are people that treat me very badly, and speak bad things of me. I feel very lonely and angry and I need clarity and peace. My problems used to be all around me, but I am not surrounded by problems anymore.

The green border that I have drawn is my inner encouragement for me to be strong amidst all my problems.”

At Art to Healing, we run trauma-recovery art therapy programs which also supports the women and the children who have experienced child sex slavery and exploitation to break free from the trauma they have been through. When a child starts to feel safe enough to express their emotions and experiences through art, they are able to create a new relationship with  their past experiences, developing more self-awareness, resilience and resources through the art making and the therapeutic process. 

Through this therapeutic and creative process, they start to create new beliefs which empower them to regain agency and a sense of autonomy which can begin the healing process of breaking free from the trauma which pervades.

Published October 2020. Copyright Art to Healing.

Learn more about the Women’s Transformational Program

Supporting women to stop the cycle of Gender Based Violence and Discrimination through Trauma-Informed Mental Health Programs