How Art Can Offer Healing for Survivors of Child Abuse

As Executive Director of LifeBridge Health’s Center for Hope, I have seen firsthand the impact that community violence, trauma and abuse can have on a community. At Center for Hope, we regularly see children and adults who are struggling because they have been witness to homicide, domestic violence, community violence or themselves been a victim of abuse.


These young people walk through our doors looking for a better path forward and what they find within our walls is support, comfort, nurturing and resources to help them get on a better path to healing.

Earlier this year, we moved into our new Jill Fox Center for Hope building, which is located on Sinai Hospital’s expanded campus in Baltimore.

The building was designed intentionally with healing in mind, including what children would see when they first walked in the room: 140 pieces of meaningful art collected over the past year from more than 90 artists in Maryland, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and even Japan to help inspire, soothe, and heal clients who have experienced trauma.

Many of those artists are also abuse survivors themselves who said donating to the IMAGINE HOPE art collection campaign was cathartic for them, too.

Art can be an incredible tool in healing. Last year, an article in the Wall Street Journal detailed how in Europe some doctors had begun prescribing visits to fine art museums and some hospitals had covered their

walls with art to help patients.
“Though making art has long been regarded as a form of therapy through self-expression, recently, the passive participation—the looking at art—is now being assessed as a different way of improving mental health,” writes Christina Cacouris in the Journal.

Scientific American reported a decade earlier in “How Hospital Gardens Help Patients Heal,” “Indeed, the benefits of seeing and being in nature are so powerful that even pictures of landscapes can soothe.”

The artwork that adorns our walls provides an opportunity to not only beautify our interior space but connect with our clients in a more subtle way.

This curated collection of art inspires hope through positive imagery. After all, hope matters. Hope is proven to help people heal from trauma and abuse. Those who visit our building draw strength and joy from these beautiful pieces of art. Moreover, the artwork spotlights artistic diversity and is representative of the amazing creative talent in our Greater Baltimore community and beyond.

A variety of different media are included—metal work/welding, acrylic paint, needlepoint and cross-stitch, watercolors, photography, digital media, collage, patchwork quilts, natural materials such as tree branches, quilling, wood art and even foam.

Of course, it’s not only viewing art that’s beneficial to children healing from abuse. Art therapy has been held up for its connection to mind and body, access to expression beyond words and reduction of stress.

Art therapy in our DOVE program is another way we are using this visual media to help clients use their creativity and visual processing to heal. While traditional therapy uses verbal skills to process feelings, art therapy adds visual and symbolic expression. At DOVE, we use many kinds of art materials such as paint, clay and collage to provide a way for clients to express themselves non-verbally, as well as provide a soothing and containing experience for participants. The art-making process can help build skills such as frustration tolerance, help to reduce stress and anxiety and improve self-awareness and self-esteem. Social skills may be built up in group art therapy, and expression of emotions can be explored and strengthened. Art therapy may be conducted individually, as a group or in a parent-child dyad.

Art therapists obtain master’s degrees from accredited programs and work with a variety of ages, populations and in a variety of settings. Our art therapist, Esther Jones, conducted her first year’s internship with the DOVE Program during the pandemic, while working on her master’s degree in Art Therapy. She is now coming on staff full time to provide art therapy sessions to adult victims of domestic violence and their
children who witness.

At Center for Hope, our primary goal is to put clients on path to healing. There is nothing more gratifying than using all of the tools at our disposal—including the presence of beautiful art—to help pave this path.

Adam Rosenberg is the executive director of Center For Hope and vice president for Violence Prevention and Intervention for LifeBridge Health.

About Adam Rosenberg

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