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Abuse survivors turn to crafting for art therapy

This healing is what the staff of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center hopes to do with the center’s art therapy workshop this Sunday, a one-time support group meeting designed to help sexual violence survivors develop tools for self-care.

“We’ve had an overwhelming response for the workshop, especially in the past week,” Bethany Wichman-Buescher, the center’s programs director, said in an email.

She said Sunday’s program will employ artistic mediums that will be easily accessible to participants. She said she wants people who attend the workshop to be able to express positivity about their journey to healing without any barriers.

The center has been using art therapy for more than 10 years, Wichman-Buescher said. Last year, the center served more than 100 people with 20 groups and workshops.

Art is a great tool for trauma survivors dealing with their past, Wichman-Buescher said.

“The way that trauma is stored in our brains and bodies can make it difficult to make sense of, let alone verbalize,” she said. “Arts and crafts have been found to be an effective mode of expression and processing.”

The rape crisis center isn’t the only area organization that offers art therapy to local residents.

The N.C. Art Therapy Institute is a Carrboro-based nonprofit that offers trainings and workshops to professionals, as well as art therapy for groups and individuals.

The institute’s specifically trained art therapists are some of the best resources for participants, executive director Kristin Linton said.

“Trained art therapists can help trauma survivors by helping them navigate and share their stories,” she said in an email. “Often things come up in the art-making process that the therapist is trained to work with, and the therapist can create a safe space for this process to unfold.”

The University is also involved in offering art therapy. ArtHeels is a student-led organization that aims to bring art into health care settings to help patients and survivors.

“Individuals who have experienced some sort of trauma tend to try to forget their experience,” ArtHeels president Sara Miles said in an email. “Art can serve as a platform to express oneself and the traumatic experience (one) endured without actually having to tell anyone anything.”

Wichman-Buescher said she hopes program participants are able to take what they learned back into their own lives after the workshop.

“It is our hope that the workshop will alleviate feelings of isolation and that participants will take home tools to help ... in their healing journey,” she said.

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