HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Using art therapy to overcome avoidance in veterans with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder

Article

This article explores the use of art therapy with veterans as a way to express and tolerate painful thoughts and emotions, and overcome certain symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

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., Murphy, D., 2017. Using art therapy to overcome avoidance in veterans with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder. International Journal of Art Therapy; doi.org10.108017454832.2017.1397036.