Reader: Beware of Mature, Anxiety Provoking Content.
Getting to trauma therapeutically can be tricky. Sometimes victims experience a flooding of emotion, stress hormones and disturbing memories throughout the therapeutic process. Expressive type therapies help control the volume of flooding and can enable the client to process through memories and emotions safer.
Anna was especially brave and curious to try alternative methods of therapy. Throughout the process, as you will see, she utilizes art, sand, poetry, music and more to help her approach the memories and cleanse the experiences. We invite you to walk through some of her process with us…
Anna talked of his methods of “grooming” that helped him gain her trust. Grooming is a manner of manipulation that allows the perpetrator to specifically target what an individual needs in order to trust. It often confuses the relationship because victims often mistake grooming methods for love. Candies, cookies, gifts & religious figures were all used in her sand tray to show the grooming. He groomed her as well as her parents.
Anna also represented the other girls she suspected may have been targets. Looking back, she could see how he treated other girls similarly. She choose to perch one girl upon the lava with a serpent unknowingly ready to strike her. Another was barely crawling out alive. Her teacher was now older and a grandfather. She placed his new granddaughter in the sand tray, on the monster, as a way to communicate her fear that she may become his victim as well. The little one is looking to his wife, her grandmother to protect her, yet Anna states his wife seemed either oblivious or numb to what was happening and never intervened to save her. Anna mentioned that when she became 14 years old, she apparently became “too old” for him thus spitting her out of his mouth. This powerful sand tray gave us rich information to explore and help her process.
To show how a sand tray can help move clients through the healing process, here Anna is able to create a bonfire of all the grooming materials used to lure her into a trusting relationship. She has powerful firefighters coming in to rescue the children and bring them into safety AND to insure that the grooming materials continue to burn and stay contained in the fire itself. Kinetic sand trays like this can be very very empowering for clients to experience this type of control. Notice the Sunday school teacher's wife is still numb, looking off into space, still in denial that her husband could do such acts of pain and destruction. His wife's lack of response and protection is a source of of pain and betrayal for Anna that she is working through.
Poetry, Expressive Writing, Drawing & Collaging
Dancing with a Winged Creature
Tears begin to well up in her tiny little eyes as she searches the sky for her delightful friend. She scans the field for anything familiar. Soon he appears; her beautiful flying companion. Swooping down with deliberate speed, he dives in close enough for her tiny little hands to reach out and touch. But wait. Ouch! That hurt! That wasn’t a dance at all. She begins to cry again. This time tears of pain. Pain mixed with fear. What is that buzzing sound? What happened to the gentle soaring flutter? The winged creature rushes in for another prick, another poke, here and there; again and again. Numbness sets in as the toxins infuse her body. Why is he doing that? Where is the magic? She cries out for her parents. No one can hear her cries for help… no one can feel her anguish.
Confused and stunned, the tiny little girl collapses to the ground and slumps down by a rock; with her head between her knees she begins to weep. Tears mixed with dust and sweat mingle and fall to the ground below her. She was seduced by the beauty of his wings and by the playful parade that led her away. She suddenly feels completely alone, isolated and afraid. As if paralyzed, the small child huddles frozen, in the middle of the field, unable to move. Unable to find safety.
In the distance, she hears scurrying and hurried footsteps. Her head is too heavy to move, her neck too weary to twist. She slumps defenseless as the footsteps mix with frantic screams. She hears her name, but still can not move. Her parents frantically race to her side. Without looking up, she receives their embrace. Weeping, rocking, holding, protecting; her parents can hardly breath. No one can end the embrace. Huddled in a pool of tears, they stand and prepare to depart.
The walk back home becomes a sober realization that love and fences and watchfulness are not enough. That the skies are full of beautiful magical creatures waiting to sprinkle fairy dust on our children. That all anyone can do is continue to love, continue to protect and continue to watch the skies for the eary sounds of buzzing.
Gabrielle Anderson is the Director and a Therapist at the Family Therapy Center of Northern Virginia, llc
She and the other team members can be contacted directly from the Center's Meet the Team page.