Exploring the Transformative Effects of Flow on Children’s Liminality and Trauma





Childhood trauma, art therapy, liminality, flow experience, poem, teachers


The process of creating art seems to be a healing as much as an expressive practice for children. Not only are art activities recognized as a necessity for children’s cognitive development, but also as a voice to express the trauma of their distressing experiences. The following article is based on art making as an effective trauma intervention therapy, adding to previous knowledge of childhood trauma and liminality for teachers and health community services. In our diverse, fast changing, challenging times, we need to encourage reflecting and utilising social justice in professionalism to achieve lasting changes in society. Therefore, the authors investigated the concept of “liminality” (a phase of change, transition and transformation) as a framework for understanding how the process of art making soothes “childhood trauma.” Recent research has revealed that the beneficial effects of drawing are due to children entering a time and phase of liminality. Emotions and states such as despair, depression and fear, accompanied by intuitive knowledge, memory, resilience and wellness might be experienced. This leads to an integrative process: while children are drawing, they are completely engaged in a non-verbal activity which needs their total involvement, concentration, imagination and creativity. The healing effect of drawing while in the flow, which helps children with trauma, has been translated from research findings into a poem. This unique contribution to the literature on art therapy’s transformative effects summarizes the results of the above study.

Author Biographies

Ute Haring, James Cook University

Ute Haring has been a teacher for 35 years, teaching in Germany, PNG and Australia, such diverse subjects as German, English, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Art, Sport, Biology, and Comparative Religious Studies in local, International Schools and Private Schools from Grade 1 to Grade 12. She holds a BA in Education, two Art certificates, a BA in Psychology and a degree in post graduate research methods. Ute’s research degree was based on the interpretation of children’s drawings, comparing various analysts and developing the CID method to make sense of children’s art. Her present PhD research centres around three themes expressed in children’s drawings: The Holocaust, Cyclones in Queensland, and Child Abuse.  Young children often lack the ability to express their fear, frustration, distress, resilience and hope for the future in words, therefore drawing and painting can help children to overcome distress and trauma. Results will be juxtaposed to interpret how children can transform reality through art. Her doctoral research project is being supervised by Associate Professor Nerina Caltabiano and Associate Professor Robyn Glade-Wright of James Cook University in Cairns.

Reesa Sorin, James Cook University

Reesa Sorin is an Associate Professor of Education. After 25 years in the tertiary education sector, she is currently working as an Education Consultant for the Australian College for Educational Research (ACER) and UNESCO. She has researched and published extensively in the areas of Early Childhood Education, Childhood, Teacher Education, Emotional Literacy, and the Arts for learning, teaching and research.

Nerina Caltabiano, James Cook University

Nerina Caltabiano is the fourth-year Psychology Coordinator in the College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University. She is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society. As a Social Psychologist, she publishes within the areas of social, development and educational psychology. Together with her collaborators, she has been the recipient of several grants including an Australian Rotary Health Research Fund, an Education Queensland Grant and an ARC Discovery Grant.



How to Cite

Haring, U., Sorin, R., & Caltabiano, N. . (2020). Exploring the Transformative Effects of Flow on Children’s Liminality and Trauma. Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, 5(1), 16–46. https://doi.org/10.18432/ari29492