Woodworking as Therapeutic Art
(C)PTSD or (Complex) Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental condition resulting from a traumatizing event or incident in someone’s life. It manifests in different forms, including anxiety attacks, nightmares, difficulty in socializing with people, and many others. People who have PTSD are often recommended to undergo therapy sessions with professionals, but there are more unconventional ways that help people cope with the symptoms of their PTSD. One of them is woodworking.
Not many individuals are familiar with woodworking helping people with serious conditions such as CPTSD and PTSD. In many situations, finding creative outlets in works of art have helped people with PTSD focus, get themselves busy, and to have a sense of pride and accomplishment after creating something out of their woodworking projects. For creative therapy, people often think of less strenuous activities, like painting or scrapbooking, yet the creative outlet that these art activities provide can be well-provided by woodworking, too. Sometimes, even more.
Woodworking has a straightforward description: it means creating anything out of wood. While this seems simple, the kinds of woodworking projects can vary from small objects like toys to more intricate designs of furniture and can go as big as creating an entire shed made out of wood. My fascination with woodworking led me to discover some of the amazing woodworkers in different parts of the world. Surprisingly, I came across people who have turned to woodwork to help in easing the symptoms of their PTSD/CPTSD. I was amazed by this ‘discovery.’ It was pleasing to know that there are ways to help individuals living with PTSD/CPTSD find solutions and ways to cope.
I have conducted several interviews where both men and women deal with the cancers of being furious, having low self-esteem, fear and anxiety. In most cases, people who have PTSD cannot put all hope on family and friends to comprehend just what they are going through.
The problem is not usually neutral though. Misinformation and lack of experience about what the individual is faced every day hamper the most well-meaning intention. Like in the case of these interviewees, one of which is Laura, whose family did not understand her woes and problems when she was younger. She had to deal with her condition alone until she was an adult, where she found interest in art through a recommendation of a friend.
Laura says that woodworking can be a great distraction from her day to day stressors in life. Woodworking helped her by letting her do something hands-on and creative, and her woodworking experience has been beneficial. According to her, “I have observed my focus and sense of satisfaction increased.”
Another person with CPTSD, a man named Mierop, had a troubled past and terrible life with his family which led him to live a life alone, while filled with confusion and anger. But woodworking reversed that for him. Mierop said, “It is great to bring calm and balance into one chaotic existence,” the initial internal turmoil in him turned into a journey of excitement.
Mierop had gone through bad experiences in life especially in his childhood days, gave his own experience on how woodworking can have a therapeutic effect on someone. In his case, he had a passion for furniture before he started his woodworking journey. He has seen many benefits since he started, especially when he had first transformed a broken piece of furniture and repurposed it without costing him anything.
The basic question to us is what made woodworking a success to these two individuals. The simple answer is that they were all able to immerse themselves into a particular passion. They had full focus on their projects, which required them to change bits of wood and other materials into attractive furniture or artistic creations. Both the process and their outputs enabled them to process their past experiences, get past some of their troubles one step at a time, and look forward to a better future with their interest set on creating more woodwork pieces.
After they had finished with the process of creating, they were also able to discover the discipline, calmness, and order that are necessary to complete each project. And that, indeed, covers the basics of what therapy is.
These individuals experienced very uplifting outcomes from woodworking, and they are very happy to recommend it to their fellow individuals in familiar situations. It is not compulsory for anyone to have any experience or interest in wood to try it. Rather, it is necessary to note that in their cases, professional medical help was not able to achieve the result that productively working with hands was able to accomplish. It may vary per individual, but the very essence of therapy is undeniably present in the creative world of woodworking.