About Mental Rewiring

Art therapy is an innovative approach to treating mental illnesses, from trauma to psychosis-based illness. Kristina Naff defines trauma, based off the American Psychiatric Association’s definition, as “An event during which an individual has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or events that invoke actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others” [1]. Trauma, in simpler terms, is “any event that has lasting negative effect on the self or psyche” [2]. Art therapy works to involve processes that circumvent neurological barriers to remembering the trauma, as well as accessing trauma related emotions and nonverbal memories[3]. This allows for the patient to begin confronting the trauma itself, as with most trauma victims they repress these emotions and memories as a method of coping with the trauma. Most patients who undergo art therapy begin to see their art as an extension of themselves[4]. The art itself is very intimate, based upon personal imagery and symbolism that the patient uses to work through their trauma[5]. The image is the language of the unconscious[6], allowing the patient to express the repressed emotions and memories fluently. The act of creating this art may end up having a positive effect on various areas in a person’s life, allowing them to function more successfully. In most cases, art therapists will follow a four-step plan in order to ensure the safety and security of the patient. The first phase is the preparation phase, where the therapist will instill hope of recovery into the patient, followed by the containment phase, in which the therapist introduces security and skills that will help the patient cope with the trauma[7]. Next we go onto the narrative phase, where the patient actually creates the art[8]. This phase is usually the most emotionally intense phase that involves guiding the patient through their trauma and their feelings surrounding the event[9]. They conclude with the integration phase, where the therapist helps to begin the healing phase and insures the security of the patient.

Within the piece Mental Rewiring I work to incorporate art therapy methodology into the digital world, one that many people as an outlet for their trauma and mental health issues. Through blogs, twitter, and facebook, people use the digital world as a form of self-medication, and many artists both digital and traditional will use art as a form of coping. It is because of these things that I wanted to create this piece, as I wanted to delve into the world of digital art therapy and how we can combine the sometimes brutally honest digital communities and the therapeutic act of creating art. Within this piece I work to deliver a sense of melancholy and isolation, something that people with mental illness and trauma survivors often feel. I achieved this through the use of colour pallets, as well as subject matter, working to invoke emotion within the viewer. I have framed my work on the blogging platform of WordPress to reference the platform in which most artist use in order to publish their artworks. I wanted to relay a feeling of catharsis that one would feel when creating therapeutic art.

[1] Naff, A Framework for Treating Cumulative Trauma with Art Therapy, 79

[2] ibid

[3] ibid, 80

[4] ibid, 82

[5] ibid, 83

[6] Tripp, A Short Term Therapy Approach to Processing Trauma: Art Therapy and Bilateral Stimulation, 176

[7] Naff, A Framework for Treating Cumulative Trauma with Art Therapy, 83

[8] ibid, 84

[9] ibid, 85