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Using art therapy to overcome avoidance in veterans with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder

September, 2018
Article:

This study follows a group of veterans who were offered an art therapy-focused, short-stay, inpatient admission at the veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress. Participants were able to use the art therapy process to express and tolerate painful thoughts and emotions, and to consider the effects of rigid perceptions.

Abstract

Avoidance can be a significant barrier to engaging in trauma-focused treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as being a mechanism that creates restrictions that can seriously impact functioning and wellbeing. Following an outpatient study with veterans that indicated art therapy might assist the overcoming of avoidance, a group of veterans was offered an art therapy-focused, short-stay, inpatient admission at the veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress to explore this potential outcome. Participants were able to use the art therapy process to express and tolerate painful thoughts and emotions, and to consider the effects of rigid perceptions. The group dynamic between the veterans created a strong container for this process. Consequently, this study suggests that art therapy can be constructively employed in assisting veterans to overcome avoidance PTSD symptoms and as a means of opening up new ways of perceiving, interpreting, and responding to situations. It is proposed that the non-verbal operations of art therapy enable this process through the use of imagination and creativity.

Full Reference

Lobban, J. and Murphy, D. (2018). Using art therapy to overcome avoidance in veterans with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, International journal of art therapy, Vol: 23 (3), p.99-114.

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