My Work Published in BC Psychologist

Reflections of Trauma in Art

by Anne Dietrich, Ph.D., R. Psych.
A psychologist in private practice, who specializes in treatment of trauma
and related problems. She also is on the BCPA Board of Directors.



The expressive arts, whether in terms of narratives,
psychodrama, poetry, performing arts, photography,
sculpture, or painting (this is not intended to
be an exhaustive list), have been recognized as
helpful adjuncts to talk therapy. The emotional/
psychological experience of trauma is often not
expressible in words. How would a client sufficiently
express with words the excruciating experience of
being raped as a child or of witnessing parents being
severely tortured and killed during acts of war?

Bennett asserts that “the experience of trauma
paradigmatically encapsulates both direct,
unmediated affective experience and an absence of
affect, insofar as it is resistant to cognitive processing
and induces ‘psychic numbing’” (2005, p. 5). The
following works were created by a survivor of severe
childhood sexual abuse and torture, who has been
diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The emotional valence — horror, helplessness,
incredulity and shock, the fragmentation that
prevents the development of a coherent and unified
sense of self, torture, and much more — is evident
in Ms. Schirmer’s works. Words alone do not
adequately convey such an experience to others, and
words alone do not help the survivor to understand
his or her experience in a holistic manner.