Laura Deschl, a graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, developed The Healing Imprint, a therapeutic garment that looks like sportswear but is designed to help heal trauma.
The project was developed to explore the potential of combining acupressure – a non-invasive practice derived from traditional Chinese medicine – with yoga-like movements to treat psychological trauma.
Deschl produced custom knitted garments with a grid sewn inside that allows small massage balls to be inserted and moved on specific acupressure points on the body, feet, hands and head.
The aesthetic of the clothing is similar to that of sports or leisure clothing, and a complete set includes a bodysuit, gloves, socks and a pillow.
The idea is to combine acupressure with a yoga-based embodied movement practice, which would allow a person’s body weight to increase pressure at targeted “acu points”.
Deschl based The Healing Imprint on research that shows how physical therapies can be integrated with 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 a range of methods that can be used to treat them.
âI was inspired by how he incorporates ‘atypical’ ways of healing trauma, such as yoga, tapping, and community,â Deschl told Dezeen.
âMy research has encompassed some other thinkers as well, but their view of healing trauma through the body is somewhat similar,â she continued. âOne thing is certain: they are all convinced that the body must play a major role in overcoming the imprint left on the body by a traumatic event.
Acupressure has been used to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as anxiety and depression related to trauma.
With The Healing Imprint garments, acupressure aims to help the wearer access buried memories or emotions, while the practice of trauma-sensitive yoga would facilitate introspection around those memories.
Deschl said that a person’s body and its emotions are “two crucial elements for self-esteem, but are often greatly altered as a result of trauma.”
âMany people with a history of trauma and neglect experience extreme disconnection from their bodies due to a deep divide between sense of self and sensory experiences,â Deschl said.
“The goal of this project is to help patients train for incarnation and thus bring them closer to their body.”
One of The Healing Imprint clothing sets is primarily knitted from elastic yarn-plated merino wool, 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 Footprint includes a set of illustrations showing where to place the bullets for which symptoms, and Deschl worked with a psychomotor therapist to facilitate testing sessions with trauma patients.
Deschl has tested the clothes at the GGzE Mental Health Institute in Eindhoven and is seeking funding to further develop the project.
Social designer and artistic researcher, Deschl has a background in fashion and textiles as well as yoga teaching.
The Healing Imprint is his final project of the Master of Fine Arts and Design at Design Academy Eindhoven and is emblematic of his interdisciplinary approach.
âClothing is not only an interface for an individual to access embodied knowledge and self-awareness, but also represents how design can bring together areas such as science, business, medicine, psychiatry and textile manufacturing, âDeschl said.
Other designers who have created therapy tools include Ariadna Sala Nadal, whose Balisa kit is intended to help children express their emotions, and Nicolette Bodewes, whose tactile objects are intended to help adults in therapy by the speech.
The photograph is by Iris Rijskamp.