Trauma has been a global psychological health issue prevailing since long among individuals from different age groups, genders, cultures and geographical premises. Straussner and Calnan (2014) referred to studies conducted in 1990s which explored prevalence of trauma among 60% of men and 51% of women in the USA. Review by Straussner and Calnan provided important insights in to the concept of trauma from defining the term trauma to its differential impacts among various groups, and different treatment approaches according to the requirements of those groups.

McGinley and Varchevker as cited in Straussner and Calnan (2014) explained trauma to be an emotionally painful experience, which can have long term impact on the victims’ physical and psychological health. Straussner and Calnan described traumatic events as those events, which produce high levels of stress to lower psychological capacity of individuals to handle this stress. Based on nature of background traumatic event and its impacts on individuals, traumas can be classified as Large-T trauma and small-t trauma or micro-trauma. Large-T traumas include natural as well as human-caused disasters which impact groups, communities and families. Complex traumas which are caused by continued or multiple traumatic events are also included in Large-T trauma. Small-t or micro traumas are caused by events like bullying, stalking, severe poverty and other things like these.

. According to Straussner and Calnan review of literature the list of consequences of trauma include disordered thinking, low responsiveness, weakening of judgment, and slowing down of response, high alertness, and unhelpful efforts of handling oneself. The authors found that people may differ in experiencing effects of trauma. Some people will be exposed to short-term effects of trauma for example acute stress disorder, while there are people who may experience long lasting and severe consequences like panic disorders, depression, sleep disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Straussner and Calnan (2014) review found various interventions used with traumatize adults, children and older adults which include Group Therapy, medications, psychoeducation, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and Narrative Therapy. However, recent researches in art therapy explored and established the significance of art therapy in effectively coping trauma symptoms among various groups of traumatized victims (Appleton, 2001; Jones, 1997; Skeffington & Browne, 2014). These studies have established art therapy as an effective therapeutic intervention that helps active recovery from trauma symptoms through promoting self-disclosure among trauma victims. This literature review focuses on to investigate the role of art therapy in promoting self-disclosure among traumatized individuals. The review also tries to establish the relationship between self-disclosure and active coping through research findings (Agaibi & Wilson, 2005) to prove that it is an effective strategy to build resilience. This review of literature on art therapy is significant for psychiatry experts and clinical experts to understand the effectiveness of art therapy in promoting self-disclosure and thus will help them use this type of approach with their patients to overcome avoidance strategies of trauma victims and help them build resilience to live normal lives. This review will provide evidence that applying art therapy can help traumatized youth to self-disclose their emotions, which is an effective coping strategy that helps in building resilience.

Thesis Statement

Art therapy is ahead of many traditional therapy interventions to help promote self-disclosure among the traumatized individuals and thus help effective coping.

Supporting the thesis statement with sources

Art therapy is an important intervention to effectively help trauma patients especially in the area of promoting self-disclosure. Appleton (2001) found that art is a significant source of expression for burn patients and that using art therapy proved useful in promoting hope among the burn patients during their treatment. The author established that art and generative processes like this, help reduce the symptoms of trauma by encouraging expression about deep feelings and promoting hope among the victims. Similarly research efforts have shown that art therapy promotes self-disclosure even among those individuals who avoid self-disclosure easily in talk therapies (Cox and Price as cited by Skeffington, and Browne, 2014)) The authors further explained that it is the core purpose of art therapy to provide a safe source of communication to the traumatized individuals to express their deep thoughts. These findings work as a supporting evidence to prove the expressive power of art therapy as an important intervention to promote self-disclosure among traumatized individuals and thus help them cope from trauma.

Art therapy is more effective in promoting self-expression as compared to other therapeutic interventions. Skeffington, and Browne (2014) cited Albert-Puleo, 1980 and Denny & Fagen, 1970) to explain that art therapy helps individuals explore the hidden parts of their self quickly compared to talk therapy. The authors added that art therapy is a non-threatening way of psychotherapy which allows traumatized people to explore their deep thoughts, inner feelings and their personal identities without any pressures as found in verbal/talk therapies. Thus art therapy is leads in its effectiveness to promote self-disclosure among therapeutic interventions.



Agaibi, C. E., & Wilson, J. P. (2005). Trauma, PTSD, and Resilience A Review of the Literature. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 6(3), 195-216.

Appleton, V. (2001). Avenues of hope: Art therapy and the resolution of trauma. Art Therapy18(1), 6-13.

Jones, J. G. (1997). Art therapy with a community of survivors. Art therapy,14(2), 89-94.

Purves, D. G., & Erwin, P. G. (2004). Post-traumatic stress and self-disclosure. The journal of psychology138(1), 23-34.

Skeffington, P. M., & Browne, M. (2014). Art therapy, trauma and substance misuse: Using imagery to explore a difficult past with a complex client. International Journal of Art Therapy, 19(3), 114-121.