This is the first of a series of blogs where Lindsey, Director of Jill Carter Training, and Integrative Sandplay and Trauma Tutor, explores the importance of working creatively with trauma.
What Happens Following Trauma?
Trauma profoundly affects the brain, body, mind, and spirit. Lasting changes occur in brain structures and the relationships between them. This results in a sensitized nervous system with constant threat monitoring and difficulty regulating emotions. Feeling bombarded by physiological sensations commonly leads to a disconnection from our embodied experience. Trauma profoundly changes our view of the world, others, and oneself. The enduring imprint of trauma emphasizes protection and threat monitoring, shaping the brain away from connection.
Why Creative Working?
Making creativity an integral part of therapy, provides a safe route for expression, exploration, and processing of trauma.
It enables the creation of new narratives, simultaneously re-wiring and repairing the brain and soothing the nervous system. Creativity allows reconnection of fractured senses, and a canvas for the unspoken. Creative ways of working engage the whole of the person, in an embodied, bottom-up approach. But how exactly does this happen?
Increasing Choice, and Agency
During a traumatic event our power, choice and autonomy is taken from us.Engaging in any creative process involves making decisions and choices.
For example, ‘paints or crayons?’, ‘music or sand?’ ‘which colour?’, ‘which symbol conveys what I wish to say?’ This decision-making process becomes a transformative act of reclaiming control. The ability to choose in creative exercises becomes a crucial step in regaining a sense of self and autonomy, allowing individuals to shape and reclaim agency over their narrative and identity in the aftermath of trauma.
All creative processes provide opportunities for experimentation, and novel experience. But why is this important?
Experimentation and novelty promote neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s capacity to reorganise and rewire itself in response to new experience. Neuroplasticity is vital for rewiring the brain that has changed as a consequence of trauma and chronic stress.
For example, following trauma, chronic exposure to stress hormones due to overfiring of the amygdala will cause the hippocampus to shrink. Amongst other things, the hippocampus mediates communication between the amygdala (which monitors threat) and the prefrontal cortex (which supports emotional regulation). With reduced volume the hippocampus becomes compromised. However, studies show that embracing novelty and new experiences allows for growth and repair of the hippocampus. Engaging in creativity is a powerful avenue for healing trauma by promoting neuroplasticity through novelty and experimentation. Creativity serves as a therapeutic tool, reshaping, rewiring, and reconnecting compromised circuits.
Art as an Oasis
In the midst of world often experienced as turbulent and unsafe, creativity can provide respite—a sanctuary.
Studies show that creative experiences engage the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a sense of calm and peace. Interrupting the relentless threat cycle by offering creative moments and redirecting the neural pathways away from constant vigilance soothes and regulates the nervous system over time, promoting a sense of safety that is essential for healing.
Look out for the second of Lindsey’s blogs about why it is important to work creatively with trauma. This will explore why talking is not enough.
Come and Join Us!
If you would like to discover more and build your confidence in working creatively with trauma, join us for one of our upcoming trainings:
Online Certificate in Working Creatively with Trauma.
5 Weekend Modules starting on 20th & 21st January 2024
You can book online here https://eu.jotform.com/build/220824611447048
Online Weekend Introduction to Working Creatively with Trauma.
Weekend of 24th & 25th February 2024
Book here https://bit.ly/IntroTraumaFeb2024