The Effects of Drawing on Memory for Traumatic Events: Implications for Professional Practices

Author: Georgina Maddox

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 10 Oct 2025.

Maddox, Georgina, 2024 The Effects of Drawing on Memory for Traumatic Events: Implications for Professional Practices, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Arts-based interventions are commonly used in many professional practices with people who have experienced traumatic events. For example, drawing is used to facilitate communication and event recall in forensic, clinical, and therapeutic settings. Although there is little empirical research examining the effects of visual image creation on post-trauma symptoms it is often claimed that artmaking helps alleviate such symptoms. One theory for how visual image creation may reduce unwanted post-trauma outcomes is based on the dual-representation theory of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By this theory visual-motor tasks (akin to drawing) can interfere with the cognitive resources required to consolidate unwanted trauma-specific memories (i.e., intrusions – a key diagnostic criterion of PTSD). Given that drawing is a known voluntary memory enhancer, it is surprising that studies that have examined its effects on memory have not considered its effects on involuntary memory. My thesis drew upon several related but distinct areas of research to fill this gap in the literature. My thesis evaluated the effects and possible underlying mechanisms of change for arts-based interventions in the treatment of trauma, by measuring the effects of post-event drawing on both voluntary event recall and involuntary intrusions.

Keywords: drawing, memory, trauma, intrusions, recall

Subject: Psychology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2024
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr Ryan Balzan