Learning Alternative Therapies for Trauma


On September 16, we partnered with the Institute for Therapy through the Arts to host an Experiential Learning Conference in Evanston, Illinois. The conference presented a daylong set of hands-on workshops to help participants understand why art and alternative therapies are so effective for people who experienced trauma.

There were about 50 attendees including ITA staff. They included social workers, counselors, and alternative therapy counselors. All have either worked with a client or currently work with clients experiencing some form of trauma.

The day began with a keynote presentation from art therapist and trauma specialist Marni Rosen, Psy.D. Dr. Rosen specializes in trauma-informed psychotherapy and creative arts therapies with survivors of abuse, domestic violence, and severe neglect.

Participants could then choose from among six breakout sessions where they learned about the techniques used in these therapies, received guided practice, and had a chance to experience the therapies from a client’s perspective in immersion sessions.

In horticulture, each person was given a plant plug, which we surrounded with soil in a pot. Everyone got their hands dirty! You could choose lavender, basil, rosemary, or sage.

In drama, participants used fairy tales and classic characters to communicate with each other. The instructor explained that patients often use the characters to express their truth without having to do it themselves, and then use role reversal to work through their personal trauma.

In music, attendees learned about various instruments one could use in a group therapy session, as well as the therapeutic value of community singing.

In breathing, each person learned two different breaths designed to alleviate stress and panic. One of these was the “Victory Breath,” or the “Darth Vader Breath.”

In art therapy, those in attendance used basic coloring sheets to explore their current emotions and learned how to incorporate art into their daily practice.

In acupuncture therapy, participants got firsthand experience with acupuncture points, ear pressure points and the basics of acupressure.

It was wonderful to see everyone protectively carrying around their plants after the therapeutic horticulture session. There are even more alternative therapies to explore, and we look forward to the possibility of a future conference.