Exploring the Expressive Therapies Continuum (ETC) and the Graphic Narrative (GN) in the Treatment of Trauma

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McGhee, Kimberly
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy works by utilizing various techniques that incorporate the “kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic” methods through visual expression (“How art therapy works,” 2017). These four experiences are all components of the Expressive Therapies Continuum (ETC), which focuses on a bipolar and hierarchal relationship. The relationship between them demonstrates six different ways of processing information in a stepwise approach in an attempt to release blocked energy and create flow. This unstructured and fluid experience has been helpful in treating trauma symptoms by meeting clients where they currently were. In contrast, the Graphic Narrative (GN) is a structured, cognitive approach to the treatment of trauma. It is intended to process trauma through the eliminating of intrusive thoughts by putting memories in the past. This research study explored the benefits and limitations of the unstructured framework of the ETC with the structured framework of the Graphic Narrative through a survey and follow-up interviews with art therapists who use one or both methods, for the treatment of trauma, and reduction of trauma symptoms, and found four themes that emerged from the data.