Friday, April 07, 2006

Scholar's Paper Example: Paulette Erickson

Paulette Erickson

Gig Harbor, WA 98335

A Pleneurethic, Holistic Approach for Prevention of

The Effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder estimates that PTSD occurs in a high percent of children and adolescents affected by traumatic events. It is a disorder that I have had personal experience with.

Richard Bangs Collier, has said that in the Journal of Pleneurthics, Vol. ll, Chapter 1,pg.5. Principle 2. “Pleneurthetics is any corrective force applied to body or mind to restore neurological sufficiency.”

“These corrective forces that facilitate the appropriate functioning of the brain system could be viewed as a form of healing” [1] Pleneurthetics has stated the importance of proper brain environments needed for children to develop into socially well-adjusted adults. “By maintaining the environments of the brain system and preserving it’s recourses a person would naturally maintain optimum health and well being”. ( James F. Carroll )

After researching what traditional Therapy has brought to the modern world is a refreshing, shame free environment for healing to occur by using the traditional therapy techniques and the newly accepted alternative therapy approaches. After reading case studies, researching therapeutic practices focusing on children, examining an assortment of counseling techniques, interviewing social workers and investigating Medical Journals, I found that bringing art into the therapy process has had profound results and is a corrective force that facilitates emotional, physical, and psychological healing.

Richard Bangs Collier’s views on integration and holistic vision when dealing with the human organism and assimilating the body, brain and mind to a state of opening are very similar to the philosophy of art therapy and drew me to research and discover some remarkable discoveries in Art Therapy as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).

The main points I want to cover in this paper are the causes of PTSD , and the effects it has on children, and why art therapy has proven to be more successful than talk therapy for treatment of PTSD in adolescence.

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) usually follows exposure to a natural

disaster (earthquake, tornado, flood), terrorist attack, man made disaster ( act of war, accident, hostage situation, school shooting), the sudden death of a loved one, exposure to physical, sexual or emotional abuse, domestic violence, or an ordeal that was perceived as life threatening. Any of the above or a combination of these events can lead to the development of PTSD”. [2]

“Children who experience traumatic events before age 11 are more likely to display psychological symptoms associated with PTSD than those who experienced traumatic events at a later age”. [3]

The effects of trauma on children can be categorized as, psychological, emotional, and physiological. [4]

Psychological effects usually happen after a traumatic event. Children might believe that the incident will happen again. They may be confused or they may feel that they are responsible for the incident, have academic and learning difficulties, developmental delays, diminished language and communication skills, and lowered IQ. Negative effects can happen after a disaster. [5]

“Children may become emotionally upset or disturbed, experience nighttime fears, anger, irritability, lower tolerance for stress, nervousness, compulsives, helplessness and or powerlessness. Behavioral effects can afflict children who have experienced significant trauma. They may shift from quiet to loud, outgoing to shy, confident to afraid. They may refuse to go to school, they may suck their thumbs, and can suffer loss of previously learned academic and social skills. Older children may try drugs and alcohol, attempt suicide and be self abusive and or self-destructive. These are patterns that reflect anxious/avoidance or anxious/resist attachments. Exposure to abuse or domestic violence correlates with low academic performance, learning problems, depression, regression, behavioral and emotional problems”. ( Armsworth & Holaday 1993, Richards & Bates 1997 )

“Children under extreme stress may experience psychological psycho-somatic effects. They may display symptoms of high fevers, vomiting, and headaches. Reminders of the event may bring on hyper arousal, low tolerance for stress, sleep disorders, and biochemical alterations in the brain”. (Arnsworth & Holaday 1993, Richards & Bates 1997) All the symptoms listed in these categories may not appear immediately after the event. All the these symptoms/ behaviors relate to Pleneurthetics. Journal of plen.,1997 volume 5 #1, principle # 5, 8, and 9 states: “Although the brain is very creative in it’s attempts to compensate for the effects of stress, the brain has to borrow from it’s reserves (brain energy), and to try to return the organism to maximum functioning, During this process the brain energy isn’t available for normal brain functioning and depletes other areas of the brain from operating at their fullest potential”. ( James Carroll, class lecture 2003) When the brain is under constant stress, such as the condition of PTSD, Collier believes that it is this process that can lead the individual into chronic illness and discomfort. Collier encourages the improving of the brain environments to reduce chronic and acute stress and it is then that the brain will make every effort to heal the individual. A child or adolescent that carries the stress of PTSD for a long period of time can show signs of deterioration of brain functioning. Children who experience trauma and or have been diagnosed with PTSD need a professional counselor, psychologist, or therapist.

“Art therapy has been found to be very successful for symptoms of PTSD and offers a pleasure component. It gives children and adolescents the opportunity to symbolically express their feelings and it creates a non-threatening environment over which the adolescent has control. Therapists can ask children to draw whatever comes to mind, give them a question or topic to draw about, or develop skits or puppet shows about what happened during or after traumatic events.[6]

“The family environment, the external world of peers and society, and depression, all seem to get better when children can express their anxieties through art. Children have difficulty expressing themselves verbally. They also have a problem responding to direct questions, can get restless, bored, have resistance to authority, and lack trust. When therapists and parents enter the world of a child instead of trying to coerce the child into entering the adult world, children feel more accepted and understood, and a deeper emotional connection is established between parent and child. Art therapy also allows the therapist to focus on the child’s needs without designating him or her as the patient, and the child can have positive and negative feelings safely without the fear of consequences. This type of therapy may elicit thoughts and feelings the child may not be aware of, or may have difficulty expressing. The visual representations can convey messages to the therapist that cover the entire scope of a situation. Secrets of sexual abuse can’t be talked about because the adolescents have been trained by the perpetrator not to tell, but no one told them not to draw. Art can be the beginning of verbal dialogue. If adolescents have a voice through art, adults tend to accept their views, because they are presented in a non-threatening way. The art that the adolescent produces can help the therapist gain some idea of the youth’s concerns about life circumstances, especially in those situations that are too risky to reveal, or too embarrassing to relate. This awareness helps the therapist protect and support the adolescent during this turbulent time”. (Western Journal of Medicine).

As numerous people diagnosed with PTSD have experienced miraculous healings through simple artistic endeavors. Regina Lafley wrote: “Through art, I am able to express myself in ways I cannot put into words. I discover and heal and sometimes I just scream. We all need to scream and art is a quieter, more productive way of doing so. If sharing my experience and pain helps others feel that they are not alone, I am glad to do so. It gives me a sort of validation”. [7]

With the knowledge I have now, I can look back and remember having PTSD symptoms at the age of six. That was the first time I picked up a piece of clay to play with in class. I remember it was grey in color, and very pliable, and didn’t smell very good. The figure I sculpted that day has stayed with me my entire life, and has led me to my own self-discovery and healing. I can remember feeling scared and excited while I made the head, body, arms and legs of a figure about 4” in length. I then decided the clay doll needed clothes and I made a wrap around skirt out of clay that fit snugly around the lower half of the body. Then I started to roll out the clay in a long snake-like shaft, which was thick at one end and came to a soft rounded point at the other end, and was as long as the doll. I very casually parted the skirt on the doll and attached this shaft between the legs. I remember the teacher walking by about this time, and I quickly shoved the shaft under the skirt on the doll. Something in side of me said that I would get in trouble if the teacher saw this. I sat there with the doll in my tiny little hands, and just stared at the doll with the hidden part under it’s skirt. I was scared to death someone would see this, and at the same time, I couldn’t squish it all back into a ball, and forget the whole thing. For the next few years, I would draw this doll with the “funny thing” (I finally had a name for it) in my storybooks, and on walls with color crayons. I must have really gotten in trouble for this, because I forgot all about it, and didn’t have this memory again until the mid 90’s, after I had been in therapy for about 10 years. The art and memories flowed in succession for a few years. I chose to write about art therapy because of its relevance to my own healing process. I believe my creativity helped me get through some pretty tough times. I was questioning what happened to me, because of the art I was producing. It was morbid, bloody, dark, scary, and much more revealing than I ever imagined. More and more memories were revealed through art, and that helped me find myself, and come out of the confusion. I finally trust and believe all my memories and the art I create now is uplifting, colorful, spiritual, nurturing, wild, and marvelous.

As Richard Bangs Collier states Pleneurethics is a way of life based on the notion that chronic personal dissatisfactions are caused by patterns of disorder in the central nervous system. Therapy is aimed at restoration and preservation of central neurological competence. Art Therapy is simply one way of restoring emotional health.

Elaine Shor, leads Art Therapy classes at the New Jersey Center for the Healing Arts (NJCHA) and offers programs and services in the areas of mental, physical, and spiritual health. Shor explains that “painting or working with art forms is healing in itself. Once the process takes hold, people began to open up. ”Clients taking part in Shor’s art therapy sessions work with a variety of media; acrylic paint, pastels, oils, crayons, colored pencils, clay, and cardboard. Different art materials elicit different responses, Shor explains “ If someone has slipped back from reality, the use of something easy to manage, such as crayons, works best. Anything too hard to control, or too fluid, would only add to the frustration and powerlessness the client is experiencing. Working with crayons or colored pencils allows for the creation of clear boundaries with no smudging. In verbal therapy, patients are expected to express how they feel at times when talking is difficult and art therapy is one step removed.” In art therapy one doesn’t need to be an artist to benefit, as there are no rules. [8]

Art Therapy is based on the belief that the creative process involved in the making of art is healing and life enhancing. Through creating art with an art therapist, one can increase awareness of self, cope with symptoms, stress, traumatic experiences, enhance cognitive abilities and enjoy the life affirming pleasures of artistic creativity.

The Inner Journey Healing Arts is a non-profit organization that an serving clients in October of 2000 and their offices are located in Spokane, WA., and Portland, Or. They utilize holistic, expressive arts, and other complimentary therapies. Specific techniques are used to empower clients to heal and recover. Eisner believes that “The arts have a powerful, mysterious and healing impact on humanity. The arts are not only needed; they are the foundation for our survival and growth as a species. Art is perhaps the most essential, most universal language. It is not a frill but a necessary part of communication.”[9]

The American art Therapy association, Inc. states that expressive arts and play therapies have been shown to be very successful with children.[10]

Martha Wakenshaw contends that “a skilled play therapist is aware of developmental stages and provides an array of materials that appeal to children of different ages. Play therapy is an approach to gaining insight and awareness into a child’s world through their primary means of communication which is play. It is the best way children express their feelings”.[11]

“There are two types of play therapy: non directive and directive. Non-directive therapy involves allowing the child to explore the play therapy room and gravitate to an activity, toy, or game that interests him or her. The therapist’s role is to listen, observe and note the symbolic actions of the play”. (Martha Wakenshaw)

“Directive therapy involves taking an active role in the play and structuring the session for assessment and diagnostic purposes. The therapist may ask the child to draw themselves or their family, or suggest an interactive game with a child who is reticent to engage with others”.(Martha Wakenshaw)

“Both non-directive and directive play is used in abused and neglected children to play out traumatic scenes again and again until the child attains a degree of mastery over the event”. (Martha Wakenshaw)

Cathy A. Malchiodi, MA, ATR, LPAT, LPCC Author of “Breaking the Silence,” a book about art intervention with children from violent homes, states, “The process of art making can alleviate the feeling of helplessness, confusion, and disequilibria involved with crisis, thus moving children into a place of stability and crisis mastery and strengthening their internal loss of control to self esteem.”[12]

National Standards for Education,1994 ,pg.5 states “The arts are societies gift to itself, linking hope to memory, inspiring courage, enriching our celebration, and making our tragedies bearable. The arts are essential to the development of the human spirit and are extremely useful when dealing with children whose relational skills have been damaged or who have stunted verbal capabilities”. [13]

Michael Samuel, M.D. and Mary Rockwood Lane, R.N., M.S.N. state in their book “Creative Healing” that art heals by:

Autonomic nervous system shifts the body to the relaxation response.

Hormones shift the body to a healing mode.

Blood flow shifts, bringing nutrients and immune cells.

Killer T-cells eat cancer cells.

Neurotransmitters and endorphins reduce pain. Self-healing mechanisms are released. [14]

In the fall of 1999, the Health Committee of the Canadian Center for Victims of Torture, approved a pilot project, an Art Therapy/ Psychotherapy group for their clients. The group was co-led by Dr. Abbas Azadian, M.D. and Art Therapist, Mary Sanderson, R.C.A.T. “In their use of art therapy they have found that art is a universal language and needs no interpreter. This doesn’t mean that the “artist” can’t shed light on their own work and that an explanation isn’t important. However, often the art speaks for itself in profound ways that can’t be verbally conveyed. Art therapy’s gentle and non-directive approach transcends verbal expression and allows the client to easily and quickly tap into issues and memories that may be blocked or unexpressed. There are sometimes no words to describe what one has experienced and even if there were, one is often unable to articulate them because of pain, shame, or grief. Certain images are vivid and ever present and it is not difficult to put them on paper or make them out of clay. Then, amazingly it becomes possible to talk about them in the third person and the images seem to loose some of their power. It is the client that decides what art materials to use and what to draw, paint, or sculpt and whether or not to talk about the art. Being in control, even for the length of the therapy session can be very therapeutic for someone who has had little control over his life”. [15]

The creative process itself is healing. The simple act of creating can be life-giving and empowering. Creativity cuts through pain and anguish and taps into the inner spirit. For many, art therapy is the first life-enhancing and creative activity they have engaged in. Art therapy is a safe and natural means of expressing strong feelings. The emotion connected with the experience must also be expressed and shared. Often the victim has survived because they have been able to repress strong feelings of anger and fear. Now safe, these emotions must find an outlet if healing is to take place. Loss, whether physical, emotional, or social, must be grieved and reconciled. Anger and rage must be expressed. Humans can’t suppress only their negative feelings as joy and love are also constrained when grief, anger, and rage are suppressed. Unexpressed anger manifests itself in depression and spontaneous art allows strong feelings to emerge when one is ready to face them. What once may have been incapacitating pain can now be surmounted and the survivor can begin to develop new and healthy patterns of living. (Dr. Abbas Azadian & Mary Sanderson R.C.A.T)

Works Cited

Alat, Kazim “Traumatic Events and Children: How Early Childhood Educators can

Help Childhood Education” (Fall 2002), Volume 79, Issue 1,pgs. 2-7, Proquest. Tacoma Community College lib., Tacoma, Wa., 19 April 2003,

American Art Therapy Association, “About Art Therapy”, (March 29,2003), AA

Board of Directors, 12 May, 2003, <>

American Psychiatric Association, (1994), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of

Mental Disorders. (4th edition). Washington, D.C.: Author.

Armsworth, M.W., & Holaday, M. (1993). “The Effects of Psychological Trauma on

Children and Adolescents”. Journal of Counseling and Development, 72(1),


Armstrong ,Ph.D., Stephen A. and Chris S. Simpson “ Expressive Arts in Family

Therapy: Including Young Children in the Process” (Fall 2002), Volume 30,

Issue 2, pgs. 2-8, ProQuest. Tacoma Community College lib., Tacoma, Wa., 19 April 2003,

Azadian M.D., Abbas and Mary Sanderson, R.C.A.T. “Group Art Therapy/

Psychotherapy at the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture” (summer 2002),

11 Nov. 2003, <>

Carroll, James F., Director of the Pleneurthetics Institute and is a member of the

Pleneurthetics Society Board of Directors. He is program coordinator of Tacoma

Community College’s Human Services Program.

Eisner, (1987), pg.35

Fox, Dana “Art Therapy”, (April1999)

Green LCSW,ACSW, Arlene M., “Healing with Art”, (April 22,2000)>

Harris, Heather L. “Super Kids! Using the Arts to Empower Children Faced with

Chronic Community Violence”,

Hensley, Laura G., “Journal of Mental Health Counseling”, (Oct.

2002), Volume 24, Issue 4, Pgs. 330-347, Proquest. Tacoma Community College

lib, Tacoma, Wa. 19 April, 2003,

Malchiodi M.A. ATR, Cathy and Linda Peterson Ph.D., “Art Intervention”,

The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children,

National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, (2001)

Ness, Linda “Art of healing” (1991)

Riley, Shirley. “Art Therapy with Adolescents” Western Journal of Medicine, ( July

2001), issue 1, pgs. 54-57, ProQuest. Tacoma Community College lib., Tacoma, Wa., 8 April 2003, il.proquest .com>

“Safe Horizon: The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children” ( 1 Oct. 1997),


Samuels M.D., Michael, “Art as a healing Force”

Samuel M.D., Michael and Mary Rockwood Lane, R.N.,M.S.N.,” Creative Healing”

(1998), pg. 88, 11 Nov., 2003,

Shor, Elaine, Healing Through Art”, UD Messenger, Volume 9, Number 3, 2000,

Steffan Ph. D., Andrea, “Writing Through the Body”

The Survivor Art Gallery, (2004),

Wakenshaw, Martha A., CMH, “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” and “ Play

Therapy”, (2001), Publisher’s Marketing Association, Small Publisher’s association of North America, Small Press Center, 22Nov., 2003.


Western Journal of Medicine July 2001, volume 175, issue 1, pgs. 54-57

Williams, Rachael Marie-Crane, Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society,

(Winter 2002) Volume 31, Issue 4, pgs. 293-303, Proquest. Tacoma Community College lib., Tacoma, Wa., 8 April, 2003,

1 Carroll, James F., Director of the Pleneurthetics institute and is a member of the Pleneurthetics Society Board of Directors.

2 Brown, D.(1996) “Counseling the victims of violence who develop posttraumatic stress disorder ”, 30(3), 218-227.

Fitzpatrick, K.M., & Boldizar, J.P. (1993). “The prevalence and consequences of exposure to violence among African American youth.”

Journal of the American Academy of Child and adolescent Psychiatry,32(2), 424-430.

Richards, T., & Bates, C. (1997) “Recognizing Post Traumatic Stress in Children”. Journal of School Health, 67(10),441-444.

3 “National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder”, (2001). Helping survivors in the wake of disaster. At the disaster site or in sheltered/relief centers.

4 “American Psychiatric Association”. (1994), Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th edition). Washington, D.C.;


5 Arnsworth, M.W., & Holaday, M. (1993), “The Effects of Psychological Trauma on Children and adolescents”. Journal of Counseling and Development, 72(1),49-56.

[6] “Western Journal of Medicine”, (July 2001), volume 175, issue 1, pgs.54-57

[7]The Survivor Art Gallery”, (2004),

[8] Shor, Elaine, “Healing Through Art”, UD Messenger, Volume 9, #3, 2000.

[9] Eisner, (1987)

[10] American art Therapy Association, “About Art Therapy”, March 29,2003, AATA Board of directors.

[11] Martha’s tips and facts, “Play Therapy”, <>

[12] Malchiodi, Cathy “Breaking the Silence”, New York: Brunner/ Mazel; 1990

[13] National Standards for Education, 1994, pg.5

[14] Samuel M.D., Michael, and Mary Rockwood Lane, R.N., M.S.W.

[15] Azadian M.D.,Abbas and Mary Sanderson, R.C.A.T., Health Committee of the Canadian Center for Victims of Torture.


  • At 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If you are a victim of minor depression, it is possible for you to get rid of it with little effort but once you fall prey to serious depression, it may become altogether impossible to tackle this disorder without opting for medications. And among the medicines available in the market to treat depression, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder, Xanax and Zoloft are highly popular.


Post a Comment

<< Home