Art Therapy for Traumatized Children

Art Therapy for Traumatized Children

Young children have and deal with the same emotions as adults. Children often do not talk about how they feel when feelings beset them, and experience embarrassment. Instead, the children occasionally may tend to do very physical actions with these emotions of such as drawing or other involving activity. This is probably because they are relieved by these reactions. Alternatively, they may overreact or remain silent when in a traumatized condition (Greenspan & Lewis, 1999). Art therapy is an intervention drawn from psychoanalytic theory.  It is a creative method that provides a safe and unthreatening way to express thoughts, emotions, and memories, which may be difficult to express verbally (Howie, Burch, Conrad, & Shambaugh, 2002). The rationale of this literature evaluation is to present various studies and research that demonstrates how therapeutic art can ingeniously assist children who have suffered from life difficulties that prevent them from communicating their thoughts, emotions, and trauma (Singh, 2001). Therefore, this research is a possible basis for other people who are interested in helping vulnerable children and victims of trauma to express themselves. The people targeted to help these children and address the trauma problem are mostly teachers, parents, and guardians.

Citations

Citation 1: Chilcote, R. L. (2007). Art therapy with child Tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka.

Why:

The tsunami disaster killed many children, parents, and relatives.  The children who witnessed the disaster were utterly traumatized and left in poverty.  They were also not offered any therapy to cope with the effects of the aftermath. Surviving children were likely to suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (evidence). The research into trauma was also to curb the negative effects including anxiety, disobedience, and other behavioral problems.

Who:

The research involved 113 female children aged between 5 and 13 years who directly or indirectly were affected by the tsunami disaster. The indirectly affected did not lose close relatives but they experienced the Tsunami catastrophe and were distressed.

Where:

The research was conducted in three schools and one orphanage and data collected for all participants, but due to convenience of the author, only the results of one school were presented.

When:

The study was conducted in 2006 and published in 2007.

How:

Participants were grouped into an average of 10-member groups that met weekly for at least 4 weeks. A facilitator was involved in offering translations for the success of the program. Teachers identified the students who were intensely traumatized and grieved. The children were then supplied with art materials and allowed about 40 minutes for expression through drawing during an hour-long session. The drawings were based on four themes namely: “my life, myself”, “the day I will never forget,” “safe places and memories,” and “three wishes” Finally, the drawings were digitally stored and verbal responses of the children recorded.

What:

Generally, the program was successful in reducing traumatic stress in the children through verbal expression and drawings. Qualitative data was collected by means of recordings and observations, and through the assessment of the researcher, the children had also regained control of their emotions.

Implications:

It is advisable that therapeutic art is incorporated in young victims’ lives who have suffered distressing adversities. This is because when the children were subjected to the therapy, their response was positive and it helped them in handling the trauma by artistic expression.

 

Citation 2: Case, C. (2010). Representations of trauma, memory-layered pictures, and repetitive play in art therapy with children.

Why:

Many boys have combinations of concerns attributed to alcohol, domestic violence, and maternal ill health during their childhood, and they are commonly referred to therapy. Also, an intergenerational pattern especially where their mothers have endured physical or sexual harassment during their childhood is common. The study was done to establish major effects that resulted from the therapy of traumatized children where the important memory of events is not consciously or orally available to them or the person doing the therapy. Furthermore, the study was intended to monitor how repetitive play and/or layered pictures intervene in the therapy.

Who:

The research majorly involved a seven years old boy called Harry. The other minor participants involved were his three other siblings and his mother (this was a case study).

Where:

The research was conducted in the therapist’s health service in the National Health Service in Bristol, England.

When:

The research was conducted and published in 2010 and had four sessions approximately fifteen weeks. .

How:

The therapist used four sessions, which took fifteen months. Harry’s mother was to take him to the health center, or the therapist collects him from home occasionally.  One of the activities involved dollhouse play (which was to become a repetitive game), ball playing, and painting.

What:

Therapist realized some layered pictures were recurrent in specific scenarios within the doll house, and repetitive play unfolded during painting.  The purpose of the pictures was to trigger attention and openness from the boy. Harry changed from naïve and passive child to a more active boy with some self-agency. The assessment of Harry’s progress was purely qualitative and the results were confidential to the researcher.

Implication:

The painting and playing allow the traumatized child to express their feelings and emotions, which would have been painful in oral expression. Also, the effectiveness of layered pictures and repetitive plays as features of artwork and play are demonstrated as a better tool for traumatized children than other methods of dealing with distress. This was based on the authors experience in the field of pediatric care.

 

Citation 3: Eaton, L. G., Doherty, K. L., & Widrick, R. M. (2007). A review of research and methods used to establish art therapy as an effective treatment method for traumatized children.

Why:

This study was aimed at empirically measuring the effectiveness of therapeutic art in children and young teens.

Who:

Being an evaluation, this investigation involved 26 articles from peer-reviewed journals based on art therapy and trauma as keywords.

Where:

The journal articles were obtained online. Most of the studies in the journals were bases in the United States.

When:

The research was done in 2006 and published in 2007. However, the articles used for analysis were dated from 1989 to 2003. There was no limit on the age of the articles.

How:

Demographics, applied methodology, and statistical/non-statistical finding formed the basis for categorizing the articles for analysis. Articles that focused on adults or other therapeutic therapies were discarded.

What

All the relevant journals to the study (26) were pooled together and analyzed. Seventeen percent of the studies were found to have included children meeting the standard criteria for treatment of PTSD. Moreover, 50% of the research involved those that had suffered from specific trauma, but had not been diagnosed with any disorder. Most data had been obtained from war-torn regions or those that were prone to natural catastrophe.

Implications:

Art therapy is a widely used method to promote psychological stability among children from disaster-stricken places. However, it is difficult to quantify all aspects of emotional being. Finally, the authors of art therapy articles ought to clarify the methodology used to carry out research to avoid ambiguity in making inferences.

 

Citation 4: Singh, A. (2001). Art therapy and children: A case study on domestic violence.

Why:

The intension of the investigation was to assess the influence of therapeutic art on the response of a child, who is a victim of domestic violence, to certain situations.

Who:

The research focuses on a Mark, who is hospitalized with Oppositional Defiance Disorder due to domestic violence.

Where:

The investigation was conducted in a Canadian urban hospital (details not disclosed in the study) within the department of Child psychiatry.

When:

The study was conducted in 2010 although it was not published.

How:

Mark was subjected to highly monitored art sessions in which he was initially uncontrollable though he was allowed to play with toys. Besides, he was allowed to explore the therapy room before settling down for the session.

What:

Mark was able to draw on his own without being pressured to. More so, he was able to control his emotion and raise self-esteem as well. This was proved through continuous assessment by the researcher and a series of progress reports. He subdued anger and gradually became responsive to the researcher.

Implications:

Traumatized children often draw less detailed diagrams but improve as they overcome their fear. Furthermore, children who have suffered domestic violence are likely to operate well in a controlled environment as in this case. The researcher was in control of everything during therapeutic sessions. Lastly, such children should be shown kindness which they eventually reciprocate.

 

Citation 5: Leenarts, E. W., Diehle, J., Doreleijers, T. A., Jansma, E. P., and Lindauer, R. J. (2012). Evidence-based treatments for children with trauma-related psychopathology as a result of childhood maltreatment: A systematic review.

 

Why:

Many children have been subjected to maltreatment during childhood, which forms a wide range of mental disorders such as unease, contemplation of suicide, and misuse of drugs, among others. This research, therefore, is aimed at describing psychotherapeutic treatment on children exposed to this childhood maltreatment.

Who:

A random sample of 26 clinical trials and 7 non-randomized was used. The sample consisted of sexually abused and mistreated children over the period of 1989 to 2010. The studies were chosen based on specificity to traumatic treatments.

Where:

The review was based on online databases.

 When:

The research was conducted and published in 2012. The studies were conducted between 1989 and 2010.

How:

A sum of 27 studies analyzed psychotherapeutic treatment used cognitive approach, behavioral approach or a combination of the two focused on trauma; two research analyzed treatments on children and teenagers with furious behavior where art activities were used, and four studies psychotherapeutic treatment focusing on other mental health concerns.

What:

The review proposes that the cognitive approach is best for trauma treatment of children exposed to mistreatment during childhood. Although the sample size was small, 33, relative to the entire collection of journals, art activity such as drawing was an important tool for children with trauma-related cognitive and emotional issues. These studies were evaluated based on specific treatments.

Implication:

Although several approaches may be available to solve the problem of emotional distress with mistreated children, caregivers should provide behavioral management skills, psycho-education, and involvement in children’s session, among other strategies. This will aid in diminishing the trauma and instill self-confidence. These two attributes, however, are inferences from the collection of journals.

Synthesis and Purpose of My Research Project

The above literature is evidence enough that children are most vulnerable to psychiatric problems in the event of natural disasters, domestic violence, or other instable triggers. It is, therefore, imperative to offer an opportunity for the expression of their emotions, as well as their fears. The result is that they will be relieved of the burden of stress, which would culminate into mental and behavioral disorders.

In this regard, this research project primarily aims at evaluating the responses of the research participants (children) to therapeutic art. Despite the fact that risk factors are not covered in the reviewed literature, identifying the various risk factors of children exposure would be meaningful, such as domestic violence or natural disaster.

Research Questions

Given that situations of suffering trauma differ, what is the relationship between the responses to art therapy and the event leading to trauma? This question has been covered in different studies cited in the literature review by considering natural disasters as well as domestic violence. It will therefore be an investigation of whether response of children is dependent on the event leading to distress.

As a supplementary part of the research, how does the environment in which the child lives affect the response to therapeutic art? This question will be used in determining the impact of the surrounding on the perception of the child towards art therapy.

 

References

 

Case, C. (2010). Representations of trauma, memory-layered pictures and repetitive play in art therapy with children. Art Therapy Online, 1(1), 1-28.

Chilcote, R. L. (2007). Art therapy with child Tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka. Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 24(4), 156-162.

Eaton, L. G., Doherty, K. L., & Widrick, R. M. (2007). A review of research and methods used to establish art therapy as an effective treatment method for traumatized children. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 34, 256–262.

Greenspan, S., & Lewis, B. N. (1999). Building healthy minds: The six experiences that create intelligence and emotional growth in babies and young children. Cambridge.  Retrieved from http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/documents/teaching_your_child-feeling.pdf

Howie, P., Burch, B., Conrad, S., & Shambaugh, S. (2002). Releasing trapped images: Children grapple with the reality of the September 11 attacks. Art Therapy, 19, 100–105.

Leenarts, E. W., Diehle, J., Doreleijers, T. A., Jansma, E. P., & Lindauer, R. J. (2012). Evidence-based treatments for children with trauma-related psychopathology as a result of childhood maltreatment: A systematic review. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 22, 269–283.

Singh, A. (2001). Art therapy and children: A case study on domestic violence. (Unpublished thesis). Concordia University. Quebec, Canada. Retrieved from http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk3/ftp04/MQ59350.pdf

 

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