A young woman is in virtual art therapy to help manage PTSD.

Art Therapy Can Help You Manage PTSD

Art therapy helps people with PTSD gain insight into their trauma, reduce anxiety, and develop healthy coping skills.


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How art therapy treats PTSD

Art therapy is a valuable treatment for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because it provides a non-verbal way to express and process difficult emotions and experiences. People can explore and release their emotions in a safe and supportive environment through various artistic techniques such as painting, drawing, and sculpting. This creative process can help people gain insight into their trauma, reduce anxiety, and develop healthy coping skills. Additionally, art therapy encourages self-expression and empowerment, allowing people to reclaim their sense of agency and control over their lives. Overall, art therapy offers a unique and effective approach to healing from PTSD.

Skills taught in art therapy for PTSD

Drawing and sketching

People in art therapy for PTSD learn how to express their emotions and experiences through drawing and sketching. These activities can help trauma survivors process traumatic events and explore their inner thoughts visually and creatively.


Art therapy teaches people how to use painting to self-express and emotionally release. By using colors and different painting techniques, people can convey their feelings and thoughts without the need for words.


Sculpting allows people to mold, shape, and create physical representations of their emotions and experiences. This hands-on approach in art therapy can provide a tangible outlet for people to externalize and process their PTSD-related feelings.


People in art therapy for PTSD can create collages that reflect their inner world using a variety of materials, such as photographs, magazine clippings, and other objects. This skill can help people explore their subconscious thoughts and bring unconscious feelings to the surface.

Mindfulness exercises

Art therapy often incorporates mindfulness practices to help people ground themselves in the present moment and become more aware of their thoughts and bodily sensations. These exercises can assist PTSD-affected people in managing their symptoms and reducing stress.

Symbolic storytelling

People in art therapy are guided in using symbols and metaphors to tell their personal stories and experiences. This skill allows people to communicate their PTSD-related experiences metaphorically and nonverbally, providing a different perspective on their traumas.

Group art activities

Art therapy often involves participating in group art activities where people can interact with others who have experienced similar PTSD-related challenges. Collaborating on art projects can foster a sense of community and support among therapy participants.

Guided imagery

Through guided imagery exercises, people in art therapy are led to visualize and create mental images that can help them process their PTSD-related feelings and memories. This skill can assist in desensitizing, triggering memories, and creating a sense of safety.

Emotional regulation through art

Art therapy teaches people how to identify and regulate emotions using creative expression techniques. This skill can help PTSD-affected people manage overwhelming feelings and develop healthier coping strategies.

Art journaling

People in art therapy learn how to keep art journals to document and process their thoughts and emotions related to PTSD. Art journaling provides an ongoing, personal outlet for self-expression and reflection for trauma survivors.

Benefits of art therapy for PTSD

Art therapy has shown long-term benefits for people who have PTSD. It provides them with a safe and creative outlet to express their emotions and experiences, leading to a greater sense of self-awareness and empowerment. Through working with an art therapist, people can process and manage their PTSD symptoms, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve their overall mental health and well-being. Over time, art therapy can also help people develop healthier coping mechanisms and build resiliency, ultimately leading to a better quality of life.

How quickly does art therapy work for PTSD? 

Art therapy can work quickly for people who have PTSD, as it provides a nonverbal form of expression that can help to process a traumatic experience and alleviate symptoms. People can find relief from distressing thoughts and emotions by engaging in creative expression such as painting, drawing, and sculpting. Art therapy offers a safe and calming outlet for processing trauma, allowing people to experience healing and PTSD recovery at their own pace.

How is medication used to treat PTSD?

Medication is often used to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to help manage symptoms like anxiety and depression. Prazosin is another medication that may be used to address nightmares and sleep disturbance. People with PTSD may also be given anti-anxiety medications to help with short-term relief from symptoms. Additionally, atypical antipsychotics can be prescribed for people who experience severe mood swings or disassociation. Overall, when administered with the support of a licensed mental health or medical professional, medication can be a crucial part of managing the symptoms of PTSD and improving the quality of life for people affected by the disorder.

Other types of treatments for PTSD

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps people identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to their trauma. It focuses on assisting people to develop coping skills and strategies to manage their symptoms.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a trauma therapy that helps people reprocess traumatic memories through a series of guided eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation. It aims to reduce the intensity of traumatic memories and their associated symptoms. 

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy involves gradually and safely exposing a person to the traumatic memories, situations, or triggers that are causing distress. This type of trauma therapy helps people confront their fears and anxieties in a controlled and supportive environment, ultimately reducing their emotional response to the trauma.

Intensive outpatient program for PTSD

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is used to treat PTSD when a person requires more frequent and structured therapy than traditional outpatient treatment can provide but does not need the round-the-clock care of inpatient treatment. IOP typically involves a combination of individual and group therapy sessions, as well as medication management and support services. The program helps people with PTSD by providing intensive therapy and support while allowing them to continue living in their own homes and participating in their daily activities. Art therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and exposure therapy are often used in IOP to help people process and manage their PTSD symptoms.

PTSD treatment with Charlie Health 

If a young person in your life is struggling with PTSD, Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health offers a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for young people and families dealing with serious mental health conditions, including PTSD. Our expert clinicians incorporate art therapy into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic treatment, managing PTSD is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today.

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