Creative therapies are very well suited to working with children or adolescents who have experienced trauma. Throughout this text, note that “traum”a”refers to both Type 1 and Type II trauma, i.e., Single shock or developmental.
the mental result of one sudden, external blow, or a series of blows, rendering the young person temporarily helpless and breaking past ordinary coping and defensive operations” (Terr, 1991).
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Pathogenesis of Trauma
- the experience which includes the nature of and duration (or repetition) of the trauma;
- how the child reacts to the trauma exposure; to what extent the experience overwhelms a child’s inability to cope and integrate the experience leading to extreme fear or helplessness.
Childhood trauma results in an arrest of affective development
and interferes with neurological development. It can and does have a profound effect. Consistent fissures or breaks of attachment can be considered potentially traumatic. Very young children are unable to self-regulate, if their primary caregivers are absent, uncaring, cruel or unequipped to meet the developmental and attachment needs of the child, the child is forced to rely on maladaptive protective strategies in order to survive the continuous offence.
Neuroscience informed treatment
The brain develops from the bottom up and trauma affects neurological developmental pathways; trauma treatment requires that clinicians understand the critical milestones of the nature of brain development in order to provide effective therapeutic interventions.
Understanding the impact is more helpful than knowing the details of the actual trauma(s) (De Bellis, 2001).
Recent developments in neuroscience have challenged and elucidated our understanding of childhood trauma. Trauma during childhood impacts psychobiology and certain areas of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex and frontal lobes, these are the areas of the brain that determine executive functioning (EF). If EF is impacted, it may result in problems with
planning ahead, self-reflection, working memory, concentration and behavioural inhibition” (Music, 2014).
Other important areas of the brain that are affected due to trauma include the limbic system, cerebellum and the corpus callosum. Trauma has been shown to inhibit regulatory processes of the autonomous nervous system, particularly the vagus (vagal tone) and elevated parasympathetic arousal (Porges, 2017). In short, disruptions cause a non-integration of experience meaning a bias on the child’s cerebral operations from the more primitive lower brain regions and
contributes to severe emotional states and may be related to emotional states of ‘immobilisation’ such as extreme terror (Porges, 1997).
In the treatment of childhood trauma, Creative interventions provide for non-linear, non-verbal experiences for the child or adolescent which further encourages lateral and vertical integration, linking the body, limbic region, and cortex in the right hemisphere which thus promotes homeostasis, expression and authenticity.