Using Art Therapy with Survivors of Domestic Violence

Using Art Therapy with Survivors of Domestic Violence

We are please to bring you this guest post from Gretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC, CTC Registered Board Certified Art Therapist, Certified Trauma Consultant

In recognition of October’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and SpeakArtLoud’s vision and voice for women, I am honored to have the opportunity to contribute this guest post about the benefits of art therapy to help empower women exposed to domestic violence.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is defined as “a pattern of abusive behaviors — including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion — used by one intimate partner against another (adult or adolescent) to gain, maintain, or regain power and control in the relationship” (National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women).

Abusers use a variety of controlling and battering tactics to frighten, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, often injure, and sometimes kill a current or former intimate partner.

For a victim of domestic violence, often the impact the abuse is too difficult to verbalize through words alone and impacted by strong feelings of shame, humiliation, guilt, and fear around speaking about the abuse (Malchiodi & Miller, 2011).

Art Therapy

Art therapy is a way to assist survivors to safely express and contain these difficult and terrorizing feelings, cope with traumatic memories and triggers, as well as support emotional stabilization and strengthen a sense of safety.

Art therapy is the deliberate use of art-making to address psychological and emotional needs through art media and the creative process to help in areas such as, but not limited to: fostering self-expression, creating coping skills, managing stress, and strengthening sense of self (The Art Therapy Alliance). You can also find more information about how art therapy is used with domestic violence from the International Art Therapy Organization.

Working in a Domestic Violence Shelter

As an art therapist working in a domestic violence shelter with women and children exposed to and traumatized by family violence, I have witnessed the benefits, value, and power of art therapy to help provide a voice to survivors and begin on a path towards healing and recovery free of abuse, violence, and control.

Through art-making, survivors can make sense of and find their way out of chaos, frightful memories, and the raw emotion of their abuse to discover a sense of grounding, strength, safety, understanding, and hope.

Art therapy helps provide an empowering outlet for this process, where the telling of a battered women’s experience does not have to be spoken aloud, but can be communicated through the language and reflection of art expression.

This short video was created with art expressions by survivors and advocates to raise awareness and share their stories about domestic violence:

Malchiodi, C. & Miller G. (2011). Domestic Violence and Art Therapy. In C. Malchiodi (Ed), Handbook of Art Therapy (2nd Edition), New York: Guilford Press.

Gretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC, CTC is a Registered Board Certified Art Therapist and Certified Trauma Consultant who practices in the Greater Cleveland, Ohio area. Her work specializes in children, adolescents, women, and families impacted by trauma, domestic violence, and grief & loss. Her website highlights her work, interests, and passions related to art therapy and her creative practice.

14 thoughts on “Using Art Therapy with Survivors of Domestic Violence

  1. Pingback: Upcoming art therapy presentations « Art Therapy Blog

  2. Pingback: Guest Blog Post on SpeakArtLoud | Art Therapy and Domestic Violence « creativity in motion

  3. Art therapy is quite helpful for expressing your past and violence as we know it is never easy to express your self with words about the violence details.
    Once a person is ready with words he must contact a expert domestic violence attorney to get justice.

  4. Its actually a nice and helpful piece of information. Im glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing. kakbaaeeefgc

  5. Pingback: Counseling For Domestic Violence Survivors | Cuties Live

  6. Pingback: Art Therapy supporting Domestic Violence victims | ArtPlusTherapy

  7. Hi, I found this perfect blog by the colorful lovely painting(women and earth), can u send me the name of artist please ?

  8. I am a domestic abuse survivor. After 15 very long years I got out. I am enrolling in school for the fall of 2016 to hopefully do something in the field of art therapy. I only recently found out this existed and Im fascinated. I only wish there had been something like this when I needed it. I would love any additional info you could give me on this field. Or put me in contact with someone that could help enlighten me.

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