Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. Youth in foster care can experience trauma in many ways; as the result of being separated from their families, abuse from their families, and even abuse from their foster families. It is no wonder that, with each “new placement,” kids in foster care typically fall behind by months in school performance.
Adolescence is a tough time for everyone, but add trauma to the mix and potential psychological issues can easily compound. Fortunately, therapy, small groups, and support can help youth heal from trauma, but it is also important to consider the role of art creation in the healing process.
Here are some of the benefits of art creation that can help youth in foster care heal from trauma:
1. Connecting with Emotion
Experiencing trauma is often a violation of a person’s will, circumstances, or identity, which causes one’s emotions to spiral. To cope, some people try to tune out their emotions. Over time, they can become numb, as a survival mechanism, so they don’t get emotionally hurt again in the event of trauma. Sometimes however, these are the very emotions the individual needs to connect with to heal. Finding ways of reaching these emotions can be strategic to the healing process.
Since art creation is often seen as something fun and approachable, it’s easy to experience. Art doesn’t judge. Art is not a therapist who might try to read into your experience. Art does not give you more than you are ready to handle; it moves at your own pace.
For these reasons, art creation can provide a safe space, a sandbox, for youth to get “out of their heads” and explore a medium. While it may just look like fun and games, art creation is an exercise in letting out our emotions. Over time, we learn to speak the language of art and express ourselves in ways we never knew before.
2. Offering An Outlet To Express
Art creation offers immediacy when feelings become overwhelming. Emotions are not always logical or convenient. If you’re a young person coping with the aftermath of trauma, trying to get through your day or the week can be especially difficult given your circumstances, surroundings, and triggers. Knowing that you have a regular place to make art can act like a pressure release valve. It helps you channel that energy into something productive and reliable.
3. Seeing Your Truth Objectively
Creating art is about connecting your mind and your emotions with something in the real world, whether it’s a painting, a song, a film, a photograph, or something else. Art is meant to be experienced. When you create art and experience it for yourself, it helps you see pieces of your inner world that you never saw objectively before. In this way, art is like a mirror for the artist. It is also a mirror for the audience, who interprets their own ideas about a piece.
4. Validating Identity
For youth recovering from trauma, it can be tempting to hide from the world; to try and fade into the background. No one asks for trauma to happen to them, and when it does, there are all these expectations of therapy, groups, and even medical treatment, depending on the trauma. To say it’s an inconvenience is an understatement. Recovering from trauma is a process in itself that is often unpredictable and extremely difficult.
Art creation is uniquely empowering because it allows youth to be seen as, not victims of a trauma, but as artists; of people in control of their own narrative. This control is a powerful step in the healing process. Being seen, heard, and known by others as a creator can be deeply validating in helping youth learn to trust and connect with the outside world.
About the Author:
Jennifer L. Jacobson is an artist and communications professional. She is the Founder of Nimbus Haus; a new volunteer art program in Seattle that helps LGBTQ+ youth and youth in foster care connect with art and expression. To learn more, visit www.nimbushaus.com
Jennifer L. Jacobson is an artist and communications professional. She is the Founder of Nimbus Haus; a new volunteer art program in Seattle that helps LGBTQ+ youth and youth in foster care connect with art and expression. To learn more, visit www.nimbushaus.com.