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The effectiveness of creative arts in the recovery of individuals affected by trauma

Vitale, A (2017) The effectiveness of creative arts in the recovery of individuals affected by trauma. In: Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference, 19 - 21 June 2017, Bristol, UK. (Forthcoming)

Abstract

The paper aims to provide an overview of the effects that trauma has on individuals and on how creative arts can promote their recovery and reintegration in their community. Trauma refers to any unexpected and overwhelming event that causes uncontrollable psychological strain to single individuals and/or groups. At the individual level, trauma can be critical (a one-off episode) or complex (i.e., prolonged exposure to psychological and/or physical stressors). A collective level, trauma can be ongoing ancestral (this is also called vertical trauma as it is transmitted from one generation to the next one) and/or ongoing cumulative (or horizontal trauma which affects specific groups/ ethnicities for instance via genocide). All these types of trauma share similar symptoms including anger, numbness, shame and among all, dissociation; this latter represents the core of trauma and it is manifested through daydreaming, as well of feelings of split-off and fragmentation in presence of events that trigger traumatic memories. The attempt to maintain control over these symptoms also affects the individual’s body, for instance through chronic fatigue, chronic pain and autoimmune diseases. Trauma therefore affects the individual’s body as much as the mind. Trauma is not listed in the DSM-5 (APA, 2013) as a mental condition per se, however empirical evidence indicates that it is at the basis of several psychopathologies and therefore it needs attention in terms of treatment options. So far, the medical approach and/or specific psychological treatments to trauma have produced mixed outcomes and, in some cases, have indicated the need to explore alternative routes to support traumatised individuals. It is only recently that leading researchers in this field have acknowledged that, along with other interventions, creative arts should be embedded in the recovery and reintegration of these individuals. Recent evidence in fact suggests that creative arts such as creative writing, theatre and visual arts, are beneficial to individuals whose past traumatic experiences have removed their sense of control over their lives, as they offer a chance to re-build their self-identity, and liberate them from potentially harmful thoughts and actions. Creative arts have the power to order the chaos that trauma has caused to the individuals’ mind and body; they provide a safe space where these individuals can make sense of their past traumatic episodes. In addition, arts help these individuals to develop a voice to share their experiences with other individuals with as similar experience as well with the broader community. When arts are presented to audiences they help individuals with trauma to connect with them as it promotes emphatic engagement, which might represent a stepping stone towards their reintegration in the community. This paper sheds light on the current debate on the use of creative arts in the recovery, empowerment and reintegration of individuals affected by trauma.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: Trauma, recovery, creative arts
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 20 Mar 2017 11:06
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2017 11:06
URI: http://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/9425
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