Thursday, July 26, 2012

Therapeutic Art Journaling

We know through experience and clinical research that telling “our story” is fundamental to developing relationships, fostering growth, and promoting healing from traumatic experience. Yet, how often have you been in a session when a consumer smiles inappropriately with an emotionless retelling of a traumatic event as if they were reporting what they had for lunch that day? You may ask yourself; are they minimizing, disassociating….. ? A moment such as this is when an ARTC intervention can make the difference between re-telling a story and re-inventing the story.

I remember Madonna, a trauma survivor herself, coming out with a song in the 90’s based around her frustration with using expressive spoken language in the song Bedtime Stories:

"Today is the last day that I'm using words

They've gone out, lost their meaning

Don't function anymore

Words are useless, especially sentences

They don't stand for anything

How could they explain how I feel".

Even Madge, the queen of “express yourself” found herself in a drought of dry meaningless words and sentences. The next time you run into this barrier I would suggest using an Art Journal Project in which the consumer will tell their story using photography, illustration, mosaic, poetry, short story and any other medium you or they can think of. All you need is in an old book to serve as the journal and some basic art supplies. The consumer will then upcycle the old book and creatively (re-cover) each page as they emotionally (recover) memories. It does not have to be a cohesive story with beginning, middle, and end. Neither does it have to move in chronological order. One page of the journal can represent anywhere from one minute to one decade. The only restriction is that it should move according to the motivation and comfort of the consumer. This intervention has great potential and the best part is that they can keep adding entries indefinitely and also have a visual to share their story with others in an expressive meaningful way that will foster continued healing and the nurturing of new relationships. For further instructional guidance I have included a link below with directions, photographs, and a video tutorial.

Check out these links to learn how to make you own Art Journal!

Written Tutorial:

Video Tutorial:

-Michelle Boonaerts

About the author: Michelle Boonaerts is the Eastern Regional Coordinator for Preferred Family Healthcare’s Achieving Recovery Through Creativity (A.R.T.C.) program. A.R.T.C. uses the arts in all forms as a collective, innovative, and integrated strategy for both therapy and education for youth and adults struggling with substance use disorders, mental health concerns and a variety of high risk situations.

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