Art as Therapy
Art as Therapy
Express, Explore, Heal, Hope, Transcend
Express, Explore, Heal, Hope, Transcend
Instinctual Trauma Response
The Core Model
Another extremely rewarding aspect of my work is having the opportunity to help trauma survivors escape from the grip of re-living the trauma, and move forward towards a calmer life experience.
It's important to note that I do not promote abreactions in therapy. Therefore, the work is very contained and safe.
Trauma can be a single event, a series of events,
or ritualized events.
Experiencing trauma illicits a range of responses from our mind and body in order to survive and cope. When the trauma is left alone, the person can get more and more steeped in the traumatic response. Without any help for recovery, the unaddressed trauma can grow from an event that happened in the past, to something that continues to dominate daily life. At this point, the trauma can become tragic, debilitating and greatly altering the course of a person's life.
With therapy, clients have the opportunity to escape from the grip of trauma, work through it, make meaning of the event, put it in the past where it belongs, and fill in the pieces of their own "puzzle". This allows them to develop hope, make changes for a more stable life, and even transcend to a more fulfilling life. It is truly an honor to travel this journey with survivors.
Traumatic experiences are more common than some people realize. Things as common as experiencing a divorce, for the adults AND for the kids, can be a traumatic experience. Other common experiences that have a traumatizing impact include; violence, a shocking event, dysfunctional relationships & relationship conflicts, accidents, illnesses, disabilities, bullying, attachment injuries (being hurt by someone you love and trust) and witnessing a traumatic event.
Traumatic experiences such as war, catastrophic events, violence, abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual), ritualized abuse, neglect, abandonment, torture, captivity, and witnessing a traumatic event, are known to have a huge impact on people to the point of developing post-traumatic-stress-disorder and dissociative identity disorder.
The following symptoms could be related to surviving trauma: withdrawal, depression, guilt, shame, grief, rigid thinking, avoidance, isolation, lost interest and energy for life, controlling, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, overwhelmed, chaotic lifestyle, hyper-sensitivity, numbing-out, anger, aggression, acting-out, eating issues, body-image issues, low self-esteem, self-harm, "spacing out" or dissociating, fragmented memories, re-living the trauma, sleep issues, nightmares, poor body regulation, boundary issues, phobias, regressed behavior, safety issues, poor social integration, self-sabotage, and so on.
When exposed to trauma, the body, spirit and mind have a range of natural responses. By using the Instinctual Trauma Response method and The Core method with survivors, they can express, process, recover and heal from the event. Putting it in the past and disabling it from constantly invading in the client's present experience of life is a huge part of this process. This unburdening allows the client to move forward in life. Life really can get better!
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a well researched, Evidence Based Treatment for trauma developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD. To learn more, please visit www.EMDR.com.
The premise of EMDR is based on the research evidence which has determined; when we sleep and reach the Rapid Eye Movement stage, we are processing information about our life and all the input our brain, body and nervous system has received over the course of the day, or lifetime. The bi-lateral eye movements stimulate the information processing function of our brain. Like other systems in our body, the information processing system is geared towards health. It is similar to the stomach digestion system. The stomach receives input of food, breaks down the food, digests it, utilizes all that it can for health, and discards what it doesn't need. The input into our brain and body also needs to be "digested". Our body does this naturally as a way to adaptively processes the information and store it properly in our brain for retrieval and resourcing when needed, and discards what we don't need.
However, when we experience something which is a jolt to our system, a trauma, our bodies go into another mode called "survival mode". This is the fight, flight, or freeze. When we go into that mode, an entirely different system takes over our body to survive. Subsequently, the information stays stuck in our mind, body and nervous system, undigested, in it's original form at the time of the trauma. Fight, flight and freeze inhibit the adaptive processing function of the brain because it is busy orchestrating the survival system. Therefore, the emotions, thoughts, sensations, beliefs, physical pains are all stuck in their original form, and easily triggered. When triggered, all of the sensations come flooding back because they are in their raw, undigested form. They haven't been processed and put away.
To complicate things, when we have trauma and our mind tries to process it in dreams, the dreams are so disturbing that we wake up and disrupt this natural adaptive information processing system. So now, we have trauma, daymares, nightmares, sleeplessness, and remain stuck in the trauma response which is easily triggered. Some medications can be used to promote sleep, however, they can also knock people out so thoroughly that it does not allow the active REM stage of sleep. So people could be rested, but still not processing their trauma.
EMDR Therapy is a protocol designed to bring someone through the mechanics of REM while in an awake state. An EMDR therapist would carefully work collaboratively with the client to establish; stability, safety, emotional regulation, a variety of healthy coping strategies, relaxation/calming techniques, mind/body awareness, and stimulate the adaptive information processing system so they can finally process the disturbing material in a safe and efficient manner. This process ultimately unburdens the client from debilitating memories, beliefs and symptoms, allowing one to develop healthier beliefs and an improved quality of life.
Instinctual Trauma Response:
Art Therapy is very beneficial for trauma survivors. When we have an experience, it is more than just language and words. It also involves sensations like sight, smell, taste, touch, sound, and all of the sensations our body feels inside including fight-flight-freeze. Traumatic experiences also rock our fundamental sense of security. All of these aspects of an experience are fragmented and stored throughout our brain and body. The language to describe our experience is located in one center of our brain. Art Therapy helps people express what is fragmented and stored throughout the mind and body.
All of these fragments can then be pieced together to create a complete narrative of the client's experience. Then, their story can be fully processed, healed, and resolved. NOW the memory and experience can be put in the past. NOW there is hope that life will not be ruled by trauma. NOW there is transcendence to living a higher quality of life.
The Core Model:
The Core Model is an approach to working with survivors of extreme trauma, and those with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Extreme trauma includes ritual abuse and abuse which is experienced in various deviant, underground cultures. I have accrued over 300 hours of direct training with the co-founder, Jim McCarthy (Social Movements Research Group) in addition to my one-on-one treatment experiences with D.I.D. clients.
The Core Model folds in very well with Art Therapy. The art allows for quicker access to information and experiences. The visual processing creates concrete evidence of the rescuing and healing process. Parts throughout the mind can feel, see and KNOW that the rescuing and healing process is happening (and that they are leading it from their internal system).
This model, and my approach, is extremely respectful of the client's past, present and future experiences. The intention is to stabilize and improve people's quality of life. The goal is not integration, but rather internal cooperation. Also, abreactions are not promoted.
This is a very collaborative approach. As a therapist, I honor the system wisdom of the client, including pace and content. I learn from every single part as the history unfolds. I encourage the internal self-helpers and assist in creating a safe environment (both physical and mental) to find, process and heal from past traumatic experiences. Together, we put the pieces back together that have been fragmented.
As the pieces get put back together, a complete narrative of the client's story can be produced. This is then processed as an experience that happened in the past. The parts who were still stuck in the fragments have been rescued so healing can take place. The old behaviors and beliefs which were used to cope with living in the trauma can be replaced with healthier choices. There is no need to live in the moment of "trauma response", because the trauma has finally been put in the past...parts are no longer stuck in the trauma. New ways of living and coping can be developed that allow the client to experience life in a whole new way, a more fulfilling way.
Importantly, the client is guided from me on the outside, but does all of the inside work within their own internal system of parts. There is a grand realization that the client's Self is capable, and can lead the system to health.
Here I must say, that my clients are my heroes. Their courage and commitment to this process inspire my deepest respect.
Overall, this process is designed to help the client develop the tools to gain control and a sense of self-mastery over their day-to-day experiences. In reducing triggers, symptoms, unwanted thoughts, feelings and behaviors, the client begins to experience a higher quality of life which is Self directed.