Photo by Alice Achterhof

5 Ways Creative Therapy Can Help You Recover From Trauma

Have you ever been mistreated, judged or hurt in your relationships? If so, it is likely that you will be very careful not to put yourself in situations where you could feel mistreated, judged or hurt.

This idea applies to how you perceive and engage with mental health support. For example, if you think speaking to a professional could make you feel vulnerable, exposed or ashamed, then keeping silent over opening up may feel safer.

This fear is very real, and for some people, it can stop them from reaching out and taking that necessary step to get help.

What you’re thinking and how you’re feeling may not have words attached to them, so when something feels unprocessed, it may help to have a supportive space where you can express yourself freely and safely. Creative therapy can help you with this.

There are many widely recognised forms of creative therapy including Dramatherapy, Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance Movement Therapy, Play Therapy and Sandplay Therapy.

 

Here are 5 ways creative therapy can help you recover from trauma. Creative therapy can help you:

 

1. Express your thoughts and feelings

You know when things are boiling over for you. The rational part of your mind stops, and your emotions take over.

Trauma disturbs and distorts the way you think and feel. Sometimes the chaos of it all makes it too difficult for you to understand what actually happened, and the order of events become shuffled and fragmented.

If you have a lot going on inside and you have been bottling it all up for a long time, then it’s likely you will need some sort of outlet before you explode (or implode). Creative therapy can give you this outlet to express yourself freely – whether verbally or non-verbally. Trauma gets trapped in the mind and body so having an outlet that actively encourages you to fully express yourself in different and multiple ways can keep the pot from boiling over.

The point is that you have an outlet to express yourself freely as you are and as you feel. It’s not about ‘being artistic’ or making something with aesthetic merit. There is no expectation that you need to be coherent, organised or rational in any way. The making-sense-of-it-all bit can come later. Oftentimes, the very act of creating something means you can experience it, step away from it, and then reflect on it. In this creative process, you give yourself the necessary distance to make talking feel a little easier.

People tend to take in information and process things more thoroughly when they have something visual to look at and something physical to take part in. By working creatively – for example, through writing, drawing and using movement, you engage with and stimulate the parts of your brain and body that have direct access to your memories and emotions.

 

2. Reflect on difficult and painful feelings at a distance and pace that feels safe for you

Do you purposely avoid people, places and situations that bring about painful memories and unbearable feelings? Part of you may be working hard to avoid stirring up anything too uncomfortable, but part of you may be wanting the opportunity to heal your pain and be free from this hold.

Therapy is meant to help you work through difficult and painful emotions but it’s important to know you don’t have to share anything that you’re not comfortable with nor will you be made to share everything all in one go. This idea of spilling it all out to your therapist can be terrifying for some and perhaps cathartic for others. However, it is important to work with an experienced therapist who can be sensitive to your personal experiences and limitations because spilling out too much and too soon can be re-traumatising. This is where working creatively can be instrumental in helping you share safely.

If you have experienced mistrust and hurt in relationships, it can take time to trust your therapist to begin sharing about yourself and the details of your experiences. By working creatively, you can find new ways of relating to your therapist and addressing your situation so that the focus doesn’t solely have to be on you and what you say. For those who have had their personal boundaries broken, felt intruded upon or experienced intrusive thoughts, the last thing you want is to feel pressured to fill the session time by talking about the things you aren’t ready to share.

Working creatively means you can work indirectly and at a distance without needing to go into detail about your situation if you are not comfortable sharing sensitive information at this point. For example, there are many ways to work with your emotions by working symbolically with the themes of trust, fear, betrayal, courage, etc. This is when working with imagery, movement, story and art can be helpful. Putting your thoughts and feelings outside of yourself to be represented in something else on paper, in an object, or as another character can help you work through your experiences at a safe and healthy distance.

 

3. Discover a new perspective

For those who have endured ongoing experiences of trauma over a long period of time, it may feel difficult to believe that things can be different and that things can change. You may feel stuck in your thoughts and perceptions about yourself and the people around you. For example, if you have been hurt in your early relationships, you may feel cautious and fearful of people. Sometimes without realising, you may replay familiar scenarios in your mind and then expect that you will always be treated by others in a similar way.

Let’s face it – it’s difficult to stop old patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving unless you begin to experience something new and positive. It’s like creating a new habit in your diet and lifestyle – you need to experience it, repeat it and integrate this into your life for change to be possible. Being told new information just won’t cut it – it may go in one ear and out the other because the rational part of the brain is finding it too difficult to process.

When engaging in something creative, you open yourself to experience something new. For example, in a Dramatherapy session, you may create a story and work with different characters where you actively engage and experience different roles and relationships. By doing so, you literally step into other people’s shoes and learn to see things from a different perspective.

 

4. Find your own answers

You may have experienced unhealthy relationships that have left you feeling at fault, that you’re to blame, and that you have failed in some way.

By working creatively in therapy, you open yourself to challenge these unhelpful thoughts and feelings.

Working creatively engages you in a process where there is no right or wrong way of doing something, there is no one solution, and there is no way to fail. You open yourself to the possibility for change and you can feel empowered when you find your own answers.

The therapist is not the all-knowing, solution-making person in the relationship. When you engage in a creative process, you are encouraged to find your own answers. These answers can come from working ‘outside of the box’. In this process, people often find new ways of viewing their problems, and then from this, find new answers that feel right for them. With so many possibilities, there comes new hope for change and recovery.

 

5. Develop your confidence and self-esteem

Therapy is a space that welcomes all feelings.

There will be times when you may need to express more painful feelings, however, it is important to remember to make space for the positive, strong and healthy parts of you too. Not all sessions will or should be full of pain, sadness and anger. Several times I have been told by my clients that they found their sessions to be “fun” and “enjoyable”.

Creative therapy can help you balance the dark with the light. For example, as a Dramatherapist, I have helped clients create their own games where they can try out new rules and explore their limitations; play a different role to how they see themselves in their everyday life; write a story to explore the relational dynamics and conflicts, and to imagine different resolutions. These creative outlets can be fun, relaxing, invigorating, inspiring and strengthening.

Working creatively actively encourages you to make different choices, find your own voice and experience your own sense of agency. All in all, this process can help you to get to know yourself better. When you feel more self-assured and grounded in who you are, you can experience greater confidence and self-esteem.

 

If you have any requests for a blog post, please feel free to send your questions, comments or ideas to: jamie@ytherapy.com

Please note that this blog is meant to be educational and should not be a substitute for therapy.

If you would like to enquire about therapy, please contact me or book an appointment: https://ytherapy.com/book-an-appointment/

Photo by Jamie Dench

10 Things You Will Discover in This Blog

A warm welcome to my blog.

This blog is the newest development here at YTherapy.

 

If you have been affected by traumatic life experiences, and:

  • You would like to find out more information about trauma recovery
  • You are beginning or already on a journey to healing
  • You are curious about therapy or currently engaging in therapy

Then this blog is for you!

 

My goal is to share my knowledge and experience as a Dramatherapist who specialises in trauma, and to motivate and inspire you to work towards your own recovery. With greater knowledge comes greater self-awareness and self-compassion.

 

Here are 10 things you will discover in this blog:

 

1. My Voice

Informal and personal – this is the approach I will take to writing my blog. I will be speaking from the “I” and addressing “You” as the reader. When words are not enough, I will also use images and videos.

I would like you to hear my voice without unnecessary formality. I would also like to share my unique perspective on trauma and recovery. I want to make my posts easy to understand, accessible and relevant for you because trauma can be hard to deal with. If you can hear my voice and you feel what I share is helpful to you, then I will have accomplished my mission.

It may be that you are searching for a therapist and are now reading this blog post. If you feel you can hear the therapist’s voice come through a little more clearly in a blog, then this can help give you a greater sense of their communication and therapeutic style.

 

2. My Experience

You can read my biography on the About Me page, however, I would like to share more about my experiences with you in this blog.

I will dedicate myself to writing posts where I can further share my experiences, insights and reflections with you. I think it’s important to explain a concept or how things work by drawing from my own experiences as a clinician.

As I have worked with many different client groups and in varying contexts, I can share a bit more in depth about how Dramatherapy has helped those affected by trauma and how this way of working can help you.

 

3. Real Life Stories and Golden Moments in Therapy

Stories are a powerful tool for learning.

People want to hear stories of change and recovery from those who have had similar experiences to them. If in that story you feel you can identify with the protagonist, then that story can fill you with hope. That’s why I’ve added a Case Studies section to the YTherapy website so that you can learn about other people’s experiences and how therapy has helped them.

Having worked in the field of addiction, trauma and abuse for many years, I have witnessed the power of peer support and the power of the service user voice. Hearing a client’s story or voice can empower you in your journey to recovery.

I’m going to share real life stories and ‘golden moments’ in therapy, and of course to do so without breaking any client confidentiality. Sometimes I learn a great deal from hearing clients re-tell stories told to them, from listening to my colleagues in supervision, and from having conversations with other therapists practicing in different fields. These experiences will feature in my blog in some shape or form adding another level of richness to help you in your recovery.

I often post quotes from clients on YTherapy’s Instagram account. To hear more of my clients’ insights from therapy, please follow: @ytherapyuk #learningfromthepatient

 

4. Useful Information about Trauma

I specialise in trauma.

More specifically, I work with adults who have experienced relational trauma and childhood trauma. Trauma that stems from relationships are often complex and historical, and even rooted in earlier experiences from childhood.

I have worked with highly traumatised clients in many types of institutions including psychiatric hospitals and prisons. I have a lot of experience working with people who have been hurt by others, people who hurt themselves (e.g. substance abuse, self-harm), and people who hurt other people.

However different they may be from one another, the one thing my clients continue to have in common with each other is that they have experienced some form of relational trauma. Usually something significant has happened or not happened (often repeatedly) in their relationships and connection with others.

People who have been deeply hurt by others are always looking for places to put their hurt – in themselves or in other people. My hope is to share with you my knowledge and experience so that you have a better understanding about trauma and how it can affect you and your relationships.

 

5. Useful Information about Dramatherapy

To many people, Dramatherapy is a mystery.

Dramatherapy may be a lesser known form of psychotherapy but it is equally effective in helping people with trauma-related issues, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD).

My aim is to educate and to dispel any myths around dramatherapy. I also hope to share different examples and ‘golden moments’ to demonstrate how dramatherapy works and how it can help you.

There are a lot more dramatherapy services for children and young people, and not as many for adults. People may be unaware of the value and benefits of dramatherapy. I hope to educate and share how dramatherapy can be very beneficial especially if you have experienced any kind of relational trauma and childhood trauma.

After all, dramatherapy is an action-based therapy. Great change can happen through talking about your relationships, connections and communication with others; and even greater change can happen if you actively engage in these topics by working experientially, creatively and symbolically.

 

6. Creativity Development

If in my blog I can share with you something that will inspire new ways of thinking about and perceiving your traumatic experiences, then we are working with the ideas of possibility and potential for change.

Having worked in a creative background for all my life, I have experienced creativity’s power to teach, to create social change and to heal. If I come across anything relevant that I think could also become resources for you and your self-development, I will of course write about it in this blog.

 

7. Therapeutic Themes, Insights and Dilemmas

This is a big one and will become the juiciest of posts. When working with trauma, I have observed many common themes, insights and dilemmas in therapy.

I will have a lot to share. I feel particularly drawn to write about the therapeutic relationship, what is often questioned and challenged in therapy, and new discoveries and reflections that come from clients too.

I hope these posts will be helpful for those thinking about taking up therapy and for those already engaged in therapy. The main aim of therapy is to help you, but when it stirs up uncomfortable feelings or challenges you, it may help you to understand why you may be thinking or feeling a certain way in the therapeutic process or relationship with your therapist. This is especially important for those who have experienced relational trauma and are wanting to start or are currently engaged in long-term therapy.

 

8. Trauma-Informed Advice and Tips

There’s already a lot of helpful information out there on mental health and wellbeing. For example, if you’re experiencing problems with sleep, you can probably find many resources with long lists of what to do and what not to do.

If you have been affected by traumatic experiences, please keep an eye on my tips. I will be sharing some helpful advice and tips which may be useful to you on a day-to-day basis. If what I share helps broaden your understanding of trauma, hopefully the advice and tips offered will feel more relevant, meaningful and effective in helping you.

 

9. Resources and Recommendations

A blog is the ideal space for me to share resources and recommendations that I think could be useful to you. For example, I may share quotes, images, videos, articles, books, films, events, apps, etc.

If you have come across my blog and would like to recommend something that has helped you, I would like to hear about your experience as this may be helpful to others.

 

10. News, Events and Updates

Whenever I have a big update on training workshops, events and publications, I will also share this in the blog. I will also make these announcements on social media so feel free to connect with me for regular updates:

 

If you have any requests for a blog post, please feel free to send your questions, comments or ideas to: jamie@ytherapy.com

Please note that this blog is meant to be educational and should not be a substitute for therapy.

If you would like to enquire about therapy, please contact me or book an appointment: https://ytherapy.com/book-an-appointment/