May 13, 2019 Domestic Violence and Disabilities, Our Stories 0 Comments

Making art with others is an expression of hope. (Bruce L. Moon, art therapist. Above, art created as part of BFL’s Transitional Housing program art group circa 1990.)

This spring, Barrier Free Living’s Freedom House domestic violence shelter launched a new art therapy group for residents (watch a virtual tour of Freedom House here).

The group, created by a current MSW intern at Freedom House hopes to “offer a space for residents to express themselves in a playful, nonverbal manner…in a supportive environment.”

For many survivors of trauma, it can be difficult to verbalize their feelings, thoughts and experiences, making artistic expression a valuable outlet. Art can offer survivors of domestic violence the opportunity to creatively express themselves through colors, images and textures.

Because trauma often overwhelms the executive functioning of the brain, traumatic memories may be recorded as sensations rather than linear stories. For people with cognitive disabilities, traumatic brain injury and also the Deaf community, verbal communication may be particularly challenging. The art therapy group hopes to open up new avenues of expression for residents along all of these lines.

Also, for survivors of domestic violence, forming relationships in therapeutic support groups can be an important component of healing. The new art therapy group may help to reduce isolation, provide advice and encouragement, and offer empathy for painful feelings and experiences participants choose to share.

During the kick off art therapy session, residents “created collages based on their names using construction paper, yarn, magazine clippings, colored pencils, markers and pastels.” Residents were asked to create images that expressed their feelings about where they are now and where they hope to be. They described these images using words like hope, serenity, flourish, peace, pray and unbreakable.

Future sessions will cover poetry, paint, spoken work and group creation of art. The hope is that the group “enhances a sense of hope and identification of hidden strengths.”

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