Monthly Archives: November 2014

032 – Can Art Help Heal PTSD?


Rice Terrace by amenic181 FDPIn today’s episode:

–        Art Therapy, what is it?
–        Finding healthy ways to express the darkness
–        Some ideas…
–        Words
–        Photography
–        Is it a good fit?

Art Therapy, what is it?

Just at the mention of the word therapy some people want to change the subject.  In the past when I have thought of art therapy I pictured people sitting around finger painting or creating an oddly shaped clay pot.  Apparently there are much more imaginative possibilities.  Please stick with me.  What I am discussing hear can be formal or informal.

People have been expressing themselves and working through problems using art for a long time.  Recently there have been effort to formalize a therapeutic method to help people with PTSD.  It is usually combined with other traditional therapeutic methods.  I think these are worthy efforts.

In a general sense, it is tapping into the creative parts of our brain to express ideas and concepts in a context that can help lead to growth and healing.  This is not a textbook definition, but it works for me.

Art can also be therapeutic in this consumption.  Reading a story, looking at an image, listening to a song can all be part of our own healing process.

Finding Healthy Ways to Express the Darkness

Whatever is on the inside seems to find its way out—even if we think we are hiding it.  Part, but certainly not all, of PTSD is attempting to integrate these “dark” experiences into the reality of our lives.  We can try and hid from these things.  This hiding can be a temporary coping mechanism we use to get through a crisis.  But at some point we need to deal with and integrate these memories.

Some ideas:

–        Music
–        Painting/Drawing
–        Photography
–        Poetry
–        Journaling
–        Writing Stories
–        Autobiography
–        Video

Finding expression for what is going on inside.  In art, of any form, we can capture and express ideas of both beauty and tragedy.


Some can find release in word.  Poetry, stories, journaling, and song writing can be good options to explore.  Fictional stories can be a way of expressing deeper realities.


Many of us are deeply moved by what we see.  A photograph can instantly move us emotionally.  There is a difference between a selfie or a quick snapshot and a photograph that has the power touch us deep in our soul.

My Chrome Cast TV device displays some of the best photography from around the world that I have ever seen.  The 1080p HD television comes alive with seen from around the world. A few sunsets are included in the rotation.  For a moment my TV is transformed in to a tool of tranquility.

The same is true with other emotions.  Have you ever seen a photographic essay of a tragic historic event?  The phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand word” holds truth.  The empty loneliness in the eyes of an orphaned child; or the terror in the eyes of a mother holder her dead child can move us to tears—maybe even action.

Not only can looking at images have a power affect.  For some, capturing images can also be a sources of healing.

Is art a good fit for your recovery?

I do not consider myself to be “artistic”.  Yet I have at times greatly benefited from the creative efforts of other people.  I have also benefited from expressing myself artistically.  Perhaps I have not made full us of these areas of my brain to aid in my own post-traumatic growth process.

How about you?  Perhaps consider giving some kind of artistic express a chance.

How has art, in any form, positively impacted any part of your recovery?


Photo courtesy amenic181 on

031 – Resolving Unresolved Guilt


Unresolved guilt and shame can quietly suck the life out of us.  It can be a silent killer of our hope, relationships, and even life itself.

Until this point in our series we have mostly dealt with the trauma of the actions others have had on us.  The injuries we endured.  But there can be another side of Post-Traumatic Stress.  The side that is tied to our own actions or inaction.

Today we dedicate this episode to this topic and all who are carrying a heavy burden of guilt or shame.  There is hope!

Psychology can try to resolve these issues.  Scientist can explain some of the neurochemicals involved.  However, there is more.

Today I am sharing as a Christian that has experienced the mercy of God in my own life.  I am sharing from my heart as a chaplain, pastor and priest.

People experience guilt for things done and sometimes things left undone.  It can be powerful and if left unresolved can lead us down an even darker path.

We may have done things we dare not speak of to others.  Things that violate our internal sense of right and wrong.  Things that haunt us in our sleep.  Things that are slowly torturing and twisting our souls.

As it is hidden it grows and takes on a life of its own.  We can lose perspective and may things irrational thoughts about our actions.

Since we dare not speak of it, we may not see a good way to deal with it—let alone resolve the conflict.  This can be a source of isolation.  It can turn into anger, hatred, fear and self-loathing.  We may seek to quiet the guilt with alcohol, drugs, gambling, or other destructive behavior.

Part of the solution is to bring it to light.  But, how?  With who?  In some cases, if certain people found out, there may even be legal ramifications.  Another may think, “If people know what I did…they would hate me…think bad of me…

Consider the story of King David in the Bible.  He took the Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his soldiers on the front lines and got her pregnant.  He called Uriah home so that he would spend time with her to cover up his betrayal and indiscretion.  However, Uriah was so dedicated that he refused to stay with his wife.  Then David sent Uriah back to the front and give the order that Uriah should be abandoned to be killed by the enemy.  Wow!  Who could come back from that?

From this we end up seeing a man who turns back to God.  This is repentance, change, captured in Psalm 51.

Most of us probably cannot relate to King David for the specifics of what he did.  We may, however, be able to relate to doing something that at another time we would find unthinkable.

In war unthinkable things may be done.  Taking the life of another, even when justified by the rules of war, leaves a scar on the soul.  A much worse scar may be left if things that go beyond that are done by us or those around us.

In many Christian traditions there is something called confession (or reconciliation).  I prefer the term reconciliation.  In these traditions it is considered a “sacrament”.  These are moments and situations where God and interacts with us in a special and sacred way.  For these traditions, including my own, things confessed in this context are absolutely sealed.

Penance, as part of reconciliation, is not about earning forgiveness.  It is not about atoning for our sins.  Rather, it is about taking actions to help our heart and mind conform to who we are created to be.

Consider the Apostle Paul.  He once went about arresting, trying and voting to have followers of Jesus Christ executed for their faith.  Then Paul, then called Saul, encountered this same Jesus and his life was radically transformed.  Paul became the writer of most of what we call the New Testament part of the Bible.

I often hear the claim that people do not change.  Perhaps this is true.  At least part true.  We may not be able to change on our own; but God working in us can transform us from what we were to what we were created to be.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici on

030 – Can EMDR Help Speed My Recovery?


ColorHeadBrain by Salvatore Vuono FDPIn today’s episode:

  • Don’t Give Up!
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

Don’t Give Up!

No matter what you have done.  No matter what others have done to you.  Don’t give up!  Good can come from bad.  But we need to keep going until we see it happen.  If we give up we may never see that good can come for the terrible stuff we have suffered.

Don’t give up on others.  This does not mean that we ignore what others do.  We should keep the door open for change—in ourselves and others.

We must have healthy boundaries.  Other people may never decide to go with us down a road that leads to a healthy and victorious life.  That is there choice.

As we move forward in our recovery they may choose to join us.  No matter what they choose we need to keep moving forward.  Keep learning.  Keep adding tools to our arsenal to combat PTSD.

EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

A therapeutic technique that aids in the integration of painful memories and emotions.  It was developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s.

Bilateral sensory input: eyes, sound and/or tap

It involves eye movement from left to right.  It can also include left and right hand touch or sounds in the left and right ears.

When we experience traumatic memories they also manifest in our bodies.  The therapist helps the client become aware of the thought, emotions and the effect these thought and emotions are having on their bodies.  They are then guided into integrating these sensations with a wider understanding of the experience, coping techniques, and life—including positive emotions.

Is it effective?

Many studies, most with small numbers of people, have reported positive outcomes.  The Veterans Administration (VA) and the military support the use of EMDR.

How does it work?

No one really knows.  There are only theories.  By having the client recall the disturbing memory it is similar to prolonged exposer therapy.  However, EMDR does not necessarily last a long time.  The eyes darting from one side to the other seems to dampen emotional response.  Perhaps this helps the client deal with the memories utilizing more thinking areas of the brain.

Question: Have you experienced EMDR?  Was the experience helpful?  If so, how?  Thank you for sharing!

Resources on EMDR