Art As a Healing Tool

Teachers, and school counselors have understood for years the power of Art in soothing souls. When skills are developed and honed, art can be highly effective in treating trauma or crisis.

Learning to apply the expressive arts to heal pain, requires understanding the elements of a "crisis", and the goals and objectives in crisis intervention. It is this understanding, which allows a teacher to apply art and music, beyond instruments of enjoyment, into tools for treating pain. Art can become a focused form of play therapy.

The Chinese define "crisis" as both a problem and opportunity, depending upon how the crisis is viewed. A "crisis" leaves a major impact on adults and on children, and that crisis can create change for better or worse.

When the passengers boarded United Airlines, leaving Logan International Airport in Boston, on 9/11/2001, it was by all accounts an ordinary day. At the end of the day, all of those passengers were dead, and we were forever changed. Everybody old enough to remember that day can tell you what they were doing, where they were, and the impact the day had on them. Those closest to the crisis, such as families of passengers that died, or families of people inside of the twin towers, or residents living in New York, felt it the most acutely, but all of us felt the impact. And, the impact of that day changed us forever.

Crisis or trauma happen this way. Ordinary days turn into extraordinary days suddenly, and unexpectedly. We are walking through life, with normal ups and downs, and suddenly and abruptly, something happens, and our world changes. This is known as the "hazardous event" ..

The emotions spiral downward, and we are left speechless, in a state of shock, and out of sorts. Vulnerability happens. Tension rises, and traditional problem solving methods no longer seem effective. Feelings of depression, and hopelessness set in, and some regression of ego occurs to a more primitive state. The state of "active crisis" sets in, and the imbalance will last between four to six weeks.

At the end of the six weeks, the person will return to the same level of "balance" they experienced before the crisis, or they will be performing at a higher state than prior to the crisis, or a lower state of functioning before the crisis , but they will not be at the same devastating place as when they were in the active phase of the crisis. Their world may no longer be the same, it may be forever changed, but they will not be in the intense turmoil experienced during the initial days.

As teachers it will be your responsibility to help children cope with crisis or trauma, and traditional methods of "talk" just may not work. You may not know how to help. You may not know what to do. Traditional methods may need to be replaced with non – conventional methods.

The goals of crisis intervention should be to relieve the symptoms, help restore children to at a minimum the previous level of functioning, understand what happened that led to this crisis, and help identify available resources, and supports.