S47: A Body of Work and Play: Trauma-informed Art Therapy and Dramatherapy

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By September 11, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Joanna Jaaniste

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: A Body of Work and Play: Trauma-informed Art Therapy and Dramatherapy

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Joanna Jaaniste, PhD, AThR (Drama) is a registered dramatherapist and Career Development Fellow at Western Sydney University where she teaches on the MA Art Therapy course. She is Principal of the Dramatherapy Centre, Sydney, is a board member of the World Alliance of Dramatherapy and has lectured and published extensively on dramatherapy.

The workshop provides an opportunity for participants to develop practical skills in using these methods in the workplace for themselves or for clients. Participants will be invited to consider their own level of safety and participation, developing an understanding of the qualities and application of various art media and drama materials within a trauma model of care.

Experiential work using art and drama materials will be informed by theoretical information on creative arts therapy (CAT) in dealing with client trauma (Edwards, 2017). Trauma- informed art therapy (T-IAT) and dramatherapy (T-IDT) delivered by qualified therapists represent useful elements for training CATs. Recent WHO research shows that interpersonal violence traumas carry the highest Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) risk lifetime population burden: 77.7 person-years per 100 respondents across surveys (Kessler et al., 2017, 12).

Little has been published on T-IAT and T-IDT and their combined effect in competence training for CATs. Stand-alone AT and DT courses in Australia around the world do not bring the two disciplines together. Joanna and Suzanne’s research project with therapists using interviews/grounded theory, fill a gap in the literature and investigate the experience of professionals working with trauma undertaking a workshop in T-IAT and T-IDT that may help clients. Their research has been approved by Western Sydney University Ethics Committee and its results will be published in ANZJAT, the journal of the Australian, New Zealand and Asian Creative Arts Therapies Association in 2019/2020.

T-IDT can overcome denial, acknowledging trauma and healthy interaction with others in the healing journey. Dramatherapist (DT) Robert Landy (2010) applied his ‘preventative’ role theory technique to assisting clients after the 9/11 disaster in New York. (Landy, 2010, 7). T-IAT Malchiodi (2018) believes that art therapy gives people the experience of showing others what they have created themselves, and experience the power of having others witness it. Clinicians working with clients who have histories of trauma may at times find that words alone are not enough to give expression to people’s experiences and feelings. Leading trauma specialists such as van der Kolk (2006) suggest that the process of trauma requires expression that engages the whole body and mind. The therapeutic focus is on engaging clients through creating, and making meaning within a culturally sensitive artistic process.

Workshop Plan:
Ice breakers and warm-ups
Participants are offered a large range of images to choose from which connect them to stories of hope and resilience
Participants discuss their choice in dyads
Participants are offered art media to make their own brief response to the image
Participants share their image and art work with a different partner
Optional opportunity to present one of their stories briefly, together with their partner, using dressups, sound and movement and/or speech
The whole group reflects upon the voluntary presentations
Joanna presents theoretical ideas behind the workshop
General discussion

Learning Objectives

Learning Objective 1: Participants will take away from the session an understanding of how art and drama applied within a trauma model can connect clients with their creative, self-giving expression to new stories of courage, vulnerability and resilience through the re-authoring stories of oppression and adversity. They can harness their creativity and re-frame their experience.

Learning Objective 2: This topic is relevant to Trauma Informed Care and Practice in Mental Health Services, which addresses difficulties many service users experience which disrupt their overall functioning: mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual wellbeing.

Edwards, J. (2017). Trauma-informed care in the creative arts therapies. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 54, A1-A2.
Jennings, S. (1999). Introduction to Developmental Play Therapy. London & Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.
Landy, R. (2010). Drama as a means of preventing post-traumatic stress following trauma. Journal of Applied Arts & Health, 1(1), 7-18.
Kessler, R. C. et al. (2017). Trauma & PTSD in the WHO Mental Health Surveys. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 8.
Malchiodi, C. (2017). The Handbook of Art Therapy (2nd Ed). New York: Guilford Press.
van der Kolk, B. A. (2006). Clinical implications of neuroscience research in PTSD. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1071, 277-293.

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