'The silent intermediary': A service user's experience of art psychotherapy for complex post-traumatic stress disorder

Neil Winter, Ali Coles

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background: This article presents a client’s (art therapee’s) conceptualisation of his experience of art psychotherapy for symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD).
    Context: He was receiving treatment through a community adult mental health team within the UK National Health Service.
    Approach: The art therapee wrote about his art psychotherapy experience, and then he and his art psychotherapist identified key themes. They related his account to art psychotherapy theory and evidence and drew out implications of his experience for art psychotherapy research.
    Outcomes/Conclusions: The art therapee found that an art psychotherapy approach was helpful in these ways: having control; expressing without words; distancing from trauma; being creative and playful. He identified some aspects of the art psychotherapy which seem to be under-represented in art psychotherapy literature: the importance of the therapist’s acceptance of the client’s artwork for building trust; the way in which artmaking bypasses the fear of ‘telling’ about past abuse; and the therapeutic value of creativity and play for accessing positive aspects of the child self.
    Implications for research: It would be valuable to gain information from other clients with C-PTSD about their experiences of art psychotherapy. Research into the identified under-explored aspects of art psychotherapy practice, the use of artmaking for C-PTSD symptom management and how artmaking can be integrated within other approaches to C-PTSD treatment would be useful.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)29-36
    Number of pages8
    JournalInternational Journal of Art Therapy
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2021


    • art therapy
    • art psychotherapy
    • trauma
    • mental health
    • PTSD
    • adult


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