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Design and integrative therapy combine in Laura Deschl’s “trauma-healing” garments

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Laura Deschl's healing imprint

Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Laura Deschl has developed The Healing Imprint, a therapeutic garment that looks like activewear but is made to help heal trauma.

The project was developed to explore the potential of combining acupressure – a non-invasive practice originating in traditional Chinese medicine – with yoga-like movement to treat psychological trauma.

Woman wearing light teal bodysuit with matching gloves with a grid pattern stitched into it and massage balls inside the grid
The garments are designed to be used for a combination of acupressure and trauma-informed yoga

Deschl produced custom-knit garments with a grid stitched into them that allows small massage balls to be inserted and moved onto specific acupressure points on the body, feet, hands and head.

The garments’ aesthetic is similar to activewear or leisurewear, and a full set includes a bodysuit, gloves, socks and a pillow.

The idea is to combine acupressure with an embodied movement practice based on yoga, which would allow a person’s bodyweight to heighten the pressure at the targeted “acu-points.”

Person wearing one Healing Imprint places a gloved hand on another's shoulder
The garments have channels stitched into them that allow massage balls to be moved onto acupressure points

Deschl based The Healing Imprint on research that shows how physical therapies can be incorporated into psychotherapy to help people heal from psychological trauma, in an approach known as integrative therapy.

She was particularly inspired by the work of Bessel van der Kolk, whose 2014 book The Body Keeps the Score documents the effects of trauma and an array of methods that can be used to treat it.

“I was inspired by how he is incorporating ‘untypical’ ways of healing trauma, such as through yoga, tapping and community,” Deschl told Dezeen.

Woman wearing a Healing Imprint therapeutic garment with a meridian print and holding a matching pillow
A full garment set includes a bodysuit, gloves, socks and a pillow

“My research also encompassed certain other thinkers, but their take on healing trauma through the body is somehow similar,” she continued. “One thing is certain: they are all convinced that the body needs to play a major role in overcoming the imprint left on the body caused by a traumatic event.”

Acupressure has been used to address symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as trauma-related anxiety and depression.

With The Healing Imprint garments, the acupressure aims to help the wearer access buried memories or emotions, while the trauma-sensitive yoga practice would facilitate introspection around those recollections.

Deschl said that a person’s body and their emotions are “two elements that are crucial for one’s sense of self, but are often highly impaired as a result of trauma”.

“Many people with histories of trauma and neglect experience an extreme disconnection from their body due to a deep divide between the sense of self and sensory experiences,” said Deschl.

“The goal of this project is to help patients train embodiment and thus bring them closer to their bodies.”

The Healing Imprint garment with a massage ball positioned in a valley of one channel
The channels in the garments allow the massage balls to stay in place

One of The Healing Imprint garment sets is knitted from predominantly merino wool plated with an elastic yarn, which was produced specifically for the project.

A second set with meridian patterns is made from a recycled knitted athleisure fabric, while the massage balls are gemstones.

The Healing Imprint includes a set of illustrations showing where to place the balls for which symptoms, and Deschl worked with a psycho-motor therapist to facilitate test sessions with trauma patients.

Woman lies on a yoga mat on her stomach with her head resting on a therapeutic pillow
The garments are based on research showing how integrative therapies can be used to help people heal from trauma

Deschl tested the garments at Eindhoven mental health institute GGzE and is seeking funding to further develop the project.

A social designer and artistic researcher, Deschl has a background in fashion and textiles as well as yoga teaching.

The Healing Imprint is her graduate project from the Master of Fine Arts and Design at Design Academy Eindhoven and is emblematic of her interdisciplinary approach.

Illustration showing acupressure points around the neck, wrists, knees, chest, stomach and rear
The project includes illustrations showing recommended placement for massage balls

“The garment is not only an interface for an individual to access embodied knowledge and self-awareness, but also represents how design can converge fields such as science, business, medicine, psychiatry and textile-making,” said Deschl.

Other designers to have made tools for therapy include Ariadna Sala Nadal, whose Balisa kit is meant to help children express their emotions, and Nicolette Bodewes, whose tactile objects are to assist adults in talk therapy.

Photography is by Iris Rijskamp.

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