War can leave soldiers with mental and emotional scars as well as physical ones, according to an article written by Dr. Cathy Malchiodi for Psychology Today. Fortunately, various treatments and therapies can help soldiers work through combat-related issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Discover the impact that art therapy can have on a veteran’s mental health.

Defining Art Therapy

According to Dr. Malchiodi, “art therapy is often defined as a form of sensory-based intervention.” Making art taps into the body’s senses of sight and touch, and it also involves movement. It activates the parts of the brain that can imagine and create, and it facilitates access to the emotions. According to Dr. Malchiodi, the act of making art can help soldiers recall traumatic experiences and bring them to the surface so that they can be examined and dealt with in a healing way.

Forming Mental Connections

Some experts claim that art therapy may actually help patients connect thoughts and feelings together, which can help them recognise and manage their stress reactions better. Dr. Malchiodi explains that “art therapy may help to reconnect feeling (implicit memories) with thinking (explicit memories), a process that may reduce post traumatic stress reactions.”

Soldiers with post-combat PTSD may not immediately realise what triggers them or why they have certain reactions; but with art therapy, those pathways between thought, feeling, and emotion are opened up. Forming those links is the first step to understanding the trauma and managing it.

Using Additional Therapies and Treatments

Art therapy can only take these PTSD victims part of the way; at some point, other therapies come into play to help resolve the issues. Some therapists use methods like EMDR, mind-mapping, narratives, clinical hypnosis, talk therapy, or medication to help patients go further along the road to recovery. Clinics like Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic in Singapore emphasise the use of holistic therapies to help the mind reframe negative thoughts and create new coping mechanisms.

Dr. Malchiodi and her colleagues recognise the need for additional research in the realm of art therapy, especially how art therapy can help resolve trauma in a more permanent way. In one recent study, a group of participants went through a cognitive-processing therapy program (CPT), while another group engaged in a program that combined art therapy with CPT. Both groups significantly improved, and their PTSD symptoms lessened. The study had only 11 participants, so more detailed and in-depth studies are needed to thoroughly explore how art therapy may add value and increase engagement for these types of programs.

Experiencing Art Therapy in Singapore

If you have been in the military or the police force, you may have experienced events that traumatised you. You may even think that you handled those events well, until much later when the symptoms of PTSD start to surface. Contact the experienced team of Singapore psychiatrists at Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic, and you’ll receive confidential, caring treatment that will help you resolve trauma in your past.

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Source: Psychology Today, 23 October 2016