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.


Connecting With Your Creativity

Connecting With Your Creativity

Fall always reminds me going back to school, time for reading, writing and thinking, and so it seems a good occasion to re-engage with our blog.

Speaking of reading and writing, I have been struggling with a bit of writers block lately. I have spent so much time focusing on organizational development and working on tax documents so that SpeakArtLoud could attain non-profit status (which we did in September, yippee!) that I have lost touch with my creative side.


I shared my struggle with writers block on Twitter and received a few helpful suggestions.
@kdsmithwrites  A “walk about” always helps when I’m stuck. Added bonus – sunny skies!

@Brainzooming Saw your writers block tweet. Here are 26 ideas for beating one from my blog: Best wishes!

@arttherapynews How do you overcome a creative block? Answer chocolate (Though, I do not think there is any evidence linking chocolate with creativity I still gave it a try)


I pulled out my copy of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink to remind myself of the value creative thinking has on the world.

In this book Pink makes the case that creative professions and right-brain abilities will drive social and economic development.

Pink identifies 6 right-brain abilities and includes creative exercises at the end of each chapter to help readers explore these areas. Here is a brief summary of these 6 aptitudes and a quick exercise to tap into this skill.

  1. Design brings beauty into our daily life, makes items easier to use and improves “flow” of systems.  * Watch this What is Design video and design your own toaster *

  2. Story can help us understand one another, improve diagnosis and healing and connect us to a purpose. *Interview a friend or family member, ask about a memorable event in their life *

  3. Symphony is about being able to combine pieces into a whole, to see relationships and blend ideas.  * Cut images out of magazines and make a collage of your future*

  4. Empathy gives us the ability to understand people, to create relationships and to care for others.   * Take the Empathy Quotient surveyto get a sense of your EQ *

  5. Play allows for self-expression, can reduce hostility, improve morale and make us more fulfilled.* Go to a playground and swing or give the monkey bars a try, at the very least watch kids play*

  6. Meaning is linked to spiritually and happiness and have health benefits and social benefits. *For one week write down one thing you are thankful for *


So, readers, how do you tap into your creativity? What tips do you have for overcoming a creative block?


Women Are Heroes

Women Are Heroes

The 2011 TED prize  was recently awarded to French artist JR.  JR, who remains anonymous by never revealing his full face or sharing his name, mounts large photo displays in urban settings.

From the slums of Paris to the favelas of Brazil, JR uses art to call attention to the people and the places that make up the often overlooked urban scenes.

In JR’s TED talk (which is worth watching!) he shares images of his work.  The large-scale photo murals are stirring; it is hard not to be captivated by the images of faces posted across broken bridges, rooftops and walls.

However it is his recently completed documentary film “Women are Heroes” that has most captured our attention.

In “Women Are Heros” JR draws attention to women, splashing their pictures across the communities – mother and grandmothers, sisters and daughters. No longer can women be overlooked.

Through visual art women become a significant part of the fabric of the community. Women are seen. Women are present.


Channeling Passion & Sharing History – Creation of Heritage Salon

Channeling Passion & Sharing History – Creation of Heritage Salon

This is a guest post from Jada Wright-Greene, founder of Heritage Salon.  After reading a piece where she raised the question of why there are not more African-Americans visiting museums I realized I had never considered this and wanted to find out more about her work.  Museums hold not only art but also serve to record our history and culture.  We are inspired by Jada’s passionate for sharing history and culture.

Passion and Drive

At the age of 17, soon after I arrived on the campus of Bethune Cookman College, I began working at the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation (Home of Dr. Bethune).  It was here that I realized my love of historic house museums.  At a time when most college freshman are at parties or hanging out with new friends I spent hours working at this historic home museum without pay and I loved every moment.As years went by I was still in love with historic homes. I love historic house museums because when you enter an historic home it gives you a sense of connection with the person that once lived in that particular space, it’s an opportunity to see the personal side of history.

Soon I discovered museum studies.  I worked in several small museums, and though I was never able to get that “big museum job” I knew I had to do something with my passion and drive for the museum field.

Three things drove me to channel my passion, (1) not gaining a big museum job, (2) discovering my name in a publication about African-American historic homes seven years after college, and (3) learning I was the first African-American to graduate from the Museum Studies Department at Michigan State University.

I knew then that I was not ordinary and felt I could make a difference. I knew I had to make my voice heard and share my passion with others.  Out of this Heritage Salon was born.

Creating Heritage Salon

Heritage Salon was created from my vision of sharing African-American museums and historic homes with the world. I also wanted to answer the question of why there are not more African-Americans visiting museums. I noticed at an early age I would be one of the only African-Americans visiting museums and, eventually, one of the only African-Americans working in a museum.

I knew, that because of my love of this field and my persistence in making others aware of this love, no one could better share African-American museums and historic homes with the world than me!

My vision for Heritage Salon is for the site to become a resource for individuals interested in the field.  Others can read about my passion and learn about museums around the country. I hope one aspect is for teachers to use the site as a resource for teaching and as a way to introduce their students to African-American museums.

Heritage Salon has moved and inspired me to pursue a Ph.D in African-American Studies with a focus on Museum Studies. I hope others can be inspired by my love, my passion, and my drive to make museums a part of their lives.

More About Jada

Jada Wright-Greene is committed to her passion of museums and introduces everyone she meets to her love. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Bethune Cookman College (2000), Masters in Urban and Regional Planning and a certificate in Museum Studies from Michigan State University (2004).  Originally from the south, she currently lives in the Midwest and devotes her free time to her husband and two children.


The Harlem Renaissance – America’s Art and History

The Harlem Renaissance – America’s Art and History

One of the things I appreciate about art is how it brings history to life.  Art helps me to understand the past in a way that no history book ever has.  Art is personal, nuanced, and rich with emotion, connecting us to personal stories and experiences from the past, providing greater depth and meaning to history.

The Harlem Renaissance

I remember first hearing of the Harlem Renaissance in a college art history class, until that point I had never been aware of this creative period in American history.

The Harlem Renaissance refers to a period in America’s history when there was a wealth of art, literature, music and dance created by African Americans.  It was during this period, after the end of World War I to just before the Great Depression, that The Great Migration occurred, when a larger percentage of black Americans moved from  the south to industrial cities in the northeast and mid-west.

This was a period when significant social and geographic changes were taking place in the nation, and the art from this period both reflected theses changes and helped to drive further social change.

Women Artists of the Harlem Renaissance

This period in American history was also an historic time for women, after decades of struggle women gained the right to vote in 1920.  The art and writing of many of the African- American women during this period addressed not only race issues but gender issues as well.

Here are three women artists working during the Harlem Renaissance who’s work both reflected and helped to further social change.

(1) Zora Neale Hurston

Writer Zora Neale Hurston published poetry, short stories, novels and an autobiography, but it was her 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” for which she is most famous.  After publication the novel, a coming of age story of an independent black woman met initially met with mixed critical success.

However, Alice Walker’s 1972 essay in Ms Magazine “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” resulted in the book being reprinted and it is now a highly acclaimed novel.

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me. – Zora Neale Hurston

(2) Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller a visual artist, started her art career by winning a scholarship to attend Philadelphia Museum School for the Arts and after earning her degree continued her art education in Paris, where she studied under Auguste Rodin.

Fuller’s sculpture Ethiopia Awakening depicts an African woman in a regal headdress, the lower portion of the body wrapped like a mummy, and is is described as symbolic of the emerging voice of black America.

(3) Bessie Smith

Blues singer Bessie Smith, considered one of the greatest singers of her era, performed on the vaudeville touring circuit, recorded for Columbia Records and made an appearance in a film and on Broadway.

She collaborated with numerous jazz and blues musicians, including Louis Armstrong.  Smith was bold and independent, and this was reflected in her music.



10 Quotes to Inspire You: Thoughts on Creating the Future

10 Quotes to Inspire You
Thoughts on Creating the Future


The best way to predict the future is to invent it. – Alan Kay


Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.  – Ella Fitzgerald


There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. – Edith Wharton

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  Your playing small does not serve the world. – Marianne Williamson


I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning. Every day I find something creative to do with my life. – Miles Davis

The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source. – Lucretia Mott


Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest. – Georgia O’Keeffe

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and help them become what they are capable of being. – Goethe


In the long run men hit only what they aim at. – Henry David Thoreau


Dreams are necessary to life. – Anais Nin

The Art of Inspiration and Insight

The Art of Inspiration and Insight

With the new year comes thoughs of new possibilities.  There is something about the change in the calendar that stirs our desire to engage in creating our future.

At this time of year we like to be inspired to think in new, positive ways that help us to sort out our life and to see things differently. We want to be more insightful, to better understand ourselves and the world around us.


Definition of Inspire – (1) Heighten or intensify; (2) Prompt; (3) Cheer, spur on, or encourage; (4) Revolutionize, fill with revolutionary ideas; (5) Inhale, draw in air

Inspiration is all about looking outward and engaging with new ideas.

Inspiration, that oh-so-mysterious element that may be hard to describe but one we recognize when it arrives, is what helps to compel us forward.  Inspiration may arrive as an ah-ha moment or a still small voice or a fire in our belly; it may arrive suddenly or we may slowly realized it was something we had with us all along.

Inspiration is what gives us new ways of seeing and of being in the world.  There is a life-force intrinsic in inspiration (inspire also means to breathe); it is in our nature to be engaged with creating, envisioning and bringing new ideas into being.

Art can inspire us. Art stimulates our mind, while creating or engaging with art we experience colors, patterns, shapes, and textures, using our brain in a different way.  Art presents ideas and perspectives that may be different from what we are most familiar with, encouraging us to explore other points of view.  The composition of images, music or performance offers an opportunity to examine aesthetic arrangements, either one you are creating in your own work or the artist’s composition, which can open us up to new ways of putting things together. Creative thinking stimulates new ideas and inspires us.



Definition of Insight (1) Discern the true nature of a situation; (2) Grasping the inward or hidden nature of things; (3) Perceiving in an intuitive manner; (4) Ability to perceive clearly or deeply; (5) Ability to understand one’s own problems

Insight is all about looking inward and understanding inner nature.

Insight, we may think of it as a hunch or intuition or the ability to read a situation, is what helps us to better understand our feelings and reactions.  Insight also helps us to understand the emotions and motives of others. Insight may come from time spent in thought, from conversations or from our interactions in the world.

Insight is what gives us a greater understanding of attitudes and beliefs, both our own and others, and increases our ability to connect at an emotional level.  There is a personal, introspective quality in insight (insight is about looking in), by connecting with ourselves we become more thoughtful and better able to connect with others.

Art can encourage insight. Thoughtful, quiet time creating or experiencing art gives us the space to connect with our self and our emotions. In art symbols and metaphors are used to communicate underlying thoughts and feelings, ones that we may not yet understand or may have difficulty communicating. Through art we can also experience others emotional expressions, through imagery, rhythm and materials we can sense the thoughts and feelings imbedded in the work art.  Creative expression provides a better understanding of feelings and offers insight.

Creating Our Future

As this new year begins, the feeling of possibility fresh in the air, remain open to the inspiration and insight that the arts offer.  Look to art to stimulate your thoughts and to inspire new ideas.  Engage with art to connect with your emotions and develop greater insight.