A recent study estimated that 23% of veterans that were deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan War have symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are a few different ways to help veterans cope with PTSD such as Cognitive Process Therapy or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). However, research shows these modalities become much more effective when used in conjunction with art therapy or storytelling.
Art Therapy Serves As a Link Between Trauma & Healing
Some studies suggest that traumatic memories are nonverbal and stored in the body, only to be retrieved through stimulation of the senses. Art therapy is a method of accessing those traumatic experiences and processing them in a meaningful way. When done in a safe and relaxing environment, art therapy can serve as a link between the traumatic memory and healing.
It’s believed that the act of making art activates the parts of the brain responsible for narrative sequencing, thereby processing and storing the traumatic memory into long-term memory. The paintbrush or materials are used to act as a buffer between the veteran and the image or memory being depicted, providing much needed emotional distance. Once the work is done the veterans can view there work from a physical distance which allows for further processing of their experience.
Treating PTSD Through Storytelling
Another effective method of treating PTSD for some is through storytelling, which helps unload the burden of the speaker as well as making listeners feel like they are not alone with their own similar experiences. Sharing one’s own personal story enables the storyteller to gain insight and meaning from what happened to them. They are then able to take this meaning and shape it into something that continues to serve themselves and others.
How Homes4Families Helps Heal Veterans
Homes 4 Families has facilitated a program designed to heal veterans with PTSD called MyTIME (My Trauma Informed Military Enrichment). It’s comprised of military-specific resiliency building exercises that include art therapy, storytelling, and many more therapeutic activities. If you’d like to learn more about it, you may by clicking here.