Art Therapy Studio Chicago, Ltd.
“Trauma” is a word that is often used as part of conversation, yet what does it really mean to encounter a trauma? At its most general, a trauma is a overwhelmingly stressful experience that causes a person to develop mistaken beliefs about the self and the world, and to subsequently act in ways that are not helpful or adaptive.
Some experiences of trauma are difficult to overlook: terrorist attacks, car accidents, assaults, physical or sexual abuse, exceptionally painful or intrusive medical interventions, and house fires. Events such as these, weather they are singular or repeated, force people to question their perception of personal safety and their view of the world. These types of experiences can give rise to intensely painful symptoms of trauma re-experiencing in the form of flashbacks and nightmares, and the closely associated avoidance of trauma related cues, or “triggers.” In addition, people who have survived major traumas may also experience increased anxieties, fears, phobias, and challenges connecting with others, enjoying life, and performing at work.
People who have not experienced a major trauma may still have encountered trauma in their lives in the form of a minor or “small-t” trauma. These types of experiences feel deeply upsetting to the individual, but may be not be perceived to others as highly problematic. Examples include being excluded by a peer group, receiving poor parental empathy as a child, or having been encouraged to feel personally deficient by those in authority roles. Minor traumas can become the underlying causes of poor self-esteem, limited self-confidence, and maladaptive behaviors including eating disorders and self-harming behaviors.
Traditional talk therapy, while a valuable component of therapy, has limits in its abilities to resolve trauma-related symptoms and associated psychological distress. This may be related to the nature of how trauma is stored within the brain and body—it is as if the sights, sounds, physical sensations, and beliefs about the self that are encountered at the time of the trauma become encapsulated in a raw, unprocessed state that resists benefitting from what we “know” cognitively to be true about our current safety and self-worth. The brain’s centers of verbal production and processing can become inaccessible to the visual, visceral, and emotional nature of trauma-inflicted dysfunction.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy has developed as an effective method to treat the symptoms of both major and minor traumas. This type of therapy uses standardized protocols to build mental resources, enhance adaptive psychological processes, and change self-sabotaging mistaken beliefs—moving people towards a fuller manifestation of their personal potential and well-being. EMDR therapy is informed by the concept that the mind is equipped with an inherent adaptive information processing system that moves trauma experiences from being “frozen” in an locked, isolated state to being fully integrated within the context of the healthy and flexible mind. Within EMDR, this information processing system is activated through the use of physical stimulus (guided eye movements or tactile and/or auditory taps) that encourage the active integration of both brain hemispheres while simultaneously engaging with specific aspects of traumatic memories. This model relies much less on verbal exchanges between the therapist and client than traditional talk therapy, and can work rapidly to resolve even long-standing trauma symptoms.
I find numerous overlaps and synchronicities between my practice of EMDR therapy and art therapy. I believe that at the root of this connection lies the fact that art therapy organically allows clients to utilize their verbal and non-verbal capacities as they explore and process aspects of both major and minor traumas within the context of a warm and supportive therapeutic relationship. Through the process of art making, as in EMDR, both brain hemispheres are actively engaged through specific and targeted interventions. While making art, the creative, somatic, intuitive, and emotional contributions of the right brain are woven together with the linguistic, analytical, narrative, and sequencing capabilities of the left brain—enabling greater integration of the brain that moves the client towards greater self-awareness, increased ability to self-regulate, and an improved ability to separate past trauma responses from current adaptive thoughts and behaviors.
In my clinical experience, the opportunity to move clients between art making and EMDR protocols offers increased flexibility and resources throughout therapy. Art making and sensory self-soothing interventions provide enhanced opportunities for clients to develop the resources essential to increase self-regulation prior to reprocessing trauma memories. Art making also adds options for of helping the client focus in on specific aspects of traumatic memories for targeted reprocessing through EMDR, and can help to comfortably pace the work and provide visual “roadmaps” of the process as it moves from onset to conclusion over the course of treatment. For clients who struggle with the traditional EMDR methods of bilateral stimulation, art related processes such as bilateral mark making using various art materials can move the client through reprocessing, providing another level of integrating experience through art making.
The brain’s tremendous capacities for growth and healing, from even the most significant major trauma or pervasive experience of minor trauma, is profound. I believe that art therapy and EMDR provide real and effective solutions for opening a fuller and more productive life. I chose to use these therapies as I recognize that they honor each person’s innate capacities for self-knowledge and self-healing, and provide opportunities for self-expression and repair that extend beyond what is possible through language alone.
Photo & Blog by Clare McCarthy
This month's blog is written by Anna Celander, art therapist and office manager at ATSC. She has been providing a cancer support group in Northbrook and took some time to share some of her experiences with us here.
Recently, I have been reminded that while art therapy is my profession, working with those afflicted with cancer is my specific purpose. Art Therapy Studio Chicago, LTD. was approached a few months ago with a request to host an art therapy workshop at the Cancer Wellness Center in Northbrook, IL. With the support of our founder, Mary Andrus, I volunteered to take the lead in organizing a six-month series that empowers clients to identify and express themselves in a therapeutic way. With guidance from the art therapist, participants explore ways to visually represent their individual cancer experience using traditional and non-traditional art materials. No prior art making experience is necessary.
I have led three groups and will be hosting a fourth Saturday, October 17. While I am there to facilitate, it is the participants who truly make the group the success it has become. Individuals guide the conversation and support each other in their art making, as well as their cancer diagnoses. The compassion and energy that the group generates is felt long after we leave the makeshift studio space.
The Cancer Wellness Center has provided the professional support and supplies to integrate art therapy into their palliative care approach to cancer treatment, and it is proving to be successful. As one participant wrote in her evaluation of the workshop, “It was an incredible experience! Emotions and feelings I didn’t know I had bottled up came through.”
In this month’s group we will be creating body maps. Emotion and experience embeds itself into our body musculature. Using art materials, clients will articulate their own physical ailments, as well as emotional stressors, that are carried in their body and mind daily.
For more information on the art therapy support group or other services offered at the Cancer Wellness Center, visit www.cancerwellness.org/cancer-wellness-center-northbrook/
For interest in individual art therapy or group art therapy related to a cancer diagnosis, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org. Sessions also offered for caregivers, family members, friends, etc. depending on interest.
The anxiety monster mostly lies in wait. Mostly. It begins with a tap dance on our stomachs and plays marionette with our nerves. Our bodies feel shaky at the times we need to present as calm and collected. Our minds whisper stories of distress and failure when we most need to be reminded of our successes. The anxiety monster doesn't care; it delights in the chaos of it's reign. We send our managers to go "take care" of the monster. This executive crew shows up with solution after solution - rationally problem solving their way through the fray of our somatic throes. Sometimes it works. Sometimes. If we cannot abide the lightening electricity crackling internally or the GI war against invisible enemies, we send in our fire-fighters. These folks work immediately and fast to set us on a different path. Our anxious energy is channeled into urges and impulses. We find ourselves doing things we did not intend and our intentions have run a ground. The anxiety monster is quelled. ...temporarily. Whatever emotions, behaviors, or thoughts awoke the monster to begin with are exiled to the dark recesses and corners of our brains and bodies. The anxiety monster lies in wait.
Lately I've been having some anxiety. It's all very normal and healthy anxiety - mostly related to self-imposed and conscious challenges to push myself. However, this anxiety has brought along some old anxiety. It's clung to my new anxiety like mud. It's somehow reminded me of the Internal Family Systems model. If you want to read more about it.... http://www.selfleadership.org/
At any rate, there are some subtle nods above to the system: managers, firefighters, and exiles. Additionally "GI" here is a reference to the gastrointestinal system; something which, for me, is often impacted by anxiety. If you're curious about how to manage anxiety in creative ways, connect with us at http://www.art-therapist.org/
In this interview with WCRX Chicago, Founder Mary Andrus talks about art therapy, trauma, and how art therapy can help people. She outlines the work at the studio and talks about the Art Works course, educating others and the resolution of trauma. Take a moment to listen and learn more about art therapy! Recorded on April 28, 2015
I cannot help but reflect on the past week and consider community... We've had global terror events across several countries, national progress in the areas of same-sex marriage and the removal of the confederate flag from South Carolina's State Capitol grounds, and in Chicago the past week started with PrideFest and culmintated with the Pride Parade over the weekend. We will follow all this up with our nation-wide celebration of independence, the 4th of July.
This past week I have ridden a wave of emotions, some more strong than others. Some events have pulled my attention far from my local community while others have brought into sharp focus the individuality of my neighborhood and my responsibility in community. I feel a surge and swell to celebrate strangers coming together this past week to protect, redefine, change, and celebrate community.
My intention: this coming week I will both listen and revel in my conversations with folks, making an effort to connect strangers. I will honor events, individuals, and conversations in my art-making. How will you celebrate community?
This month's blog post was written by Erin Owens, ATR, LCPC therapist at Art Therapy Studio Chicago Ltd
Creativity and problem solving are experiences rich in personal learning and growth, as well as integrating helpful coping skills. The art making process aids in exploring and identifying values, emotions, thoughts and ideas. Making art is self-soothing and an important way to care for yourself.
Each week suggested exercises will be provided. Individual exploration of themes and materials are also welcomed and encouraged. It is not necessary to have previous instruction, knowledge of art processes, or prior engagement in art therapy. We will work through metaphor, themes, and storytelling, all as ways to help you integrate and process aspects of your life. There will be some introduction to materials, skill instruction, and education about the therapeutic aspect of art making. Our first group will include some discussion on group guidelines and confidentiality.
EVOLVE is an art therapy group led by Erin Owens, a licensed clinical professional counselor, registered art therapist, and artist.
You deserve the time and space for art! Consider taking the next course to help you connect to your creativity!
Course Learning objectives:
1. Gain practical exercises to integrate art making into life and work
2. Learn how to let go of criticism and allow oneself to play in art making
3. Examine how art making can deepen everyday experiences.
Read what past participants have said about the course:
"I liked that we were able to express ourselves and learned a lot more about ourselves, and it really did motivated me to reconnect with myself! the artist in me and now I'm trying to not leave it, and practice practice practice! :)"
"The book is a fantastic resource and I know I'll be going back to it over and over again. The experience of working with your text thru Mary's group is helping me move out of a narrow place I've been stuck in artistically into a much more open and loving place."
"Loved the book...a great contribution to the artist community. It motivated me and definitely gave me the push needed in order to reconnect with my creative self."
"The book is amazing. I will always be in a state of re-reading and highlighting. It is an amazing addition to the art therapy world. I will refer interested art therapists, artists, and the like to it any chance I get."
About the Book:
Art Works: How Making Art Illuminates your life is filled with personal anecdotes and narratives providing inspiration and practical exercises to work through blocks and to explore and engage in the art process. From an individual looking to enrich their life and connect to their creative self, to a professional artist or art therapist who is looking for new inspiration, this book is great for someone looking to know oneself more deeply.
Weaving personal anecdotes and narratives, the authors validate and normalize the readers’ experience, creating self-acceptance, and inspiration to engage in art.
The authors encourage the reader, honoring the universal experience of being human, and biological need to make art. Don is of 80 plus years, an artist and art therapy pioneer who has found making art as his breath and the one thing that consistently supports him in his life. Amy is a writer and mother who continuously identifies writing as her way to keep her connected to her core. Together they deconstruct the art process into valuable meaningful parts and generate ideas and inspiration to engage one’s curiosity to motivate the reader to express oneself through art.
Course runs July 8-August 29th, Weds nights from 7-9pm. Register http://www.art-therapist.org/open-studiocourses.html
If you register before June 15th, you get 20 off the cost- Regularly 200, discounted to 180. Student rate is 100.
This past Friday I had the pleasure in speaking with Jaime Friedlander, a masters student at Northwestern University. She visited the studio and talked with myself and several of the artist therapists who had their work displayed in the Creative Connections Exhibit through the Illinois Art Therapy Association. It is exciting to be able to talk with people who are interested in learning more about art therapy! Please take a moment to view this short video!
Come join NoStigmas for our monthly Wellness Wednesday Workshops, where we introduce novel ways of maintaing mental health and general wellness. This month NoStigmas is featuring Chicago-based Art Therapist, Mary Andrus, ATR-BC,LCPC
Register by clicking here
I am co-facilitating two art therapy workshops on October 3rd and 11th with my colleague Kathy Miller LCPC. No previous art making experience needed, all supplies are included in the $35 cost. We together will integrate mindfulness and art therapy and provide tools for healing and restoration. Visit www.awakeningsfoundation.net to register.
Dr. Mary Andrus DAT, ATR-BC, LCPC