Virtual Art Therapy to Help Abused Children

HK doctors pioneer use of virtual reality therapy to help abused children
Posted: 10 January 2006 1805 hrs

By Channel NewsAsia’s
Hong Kong Correspondent Roland Lim

HONG KONG : Researchers and therapists in Hong Kong have pioneered the use of virtual technology to help abused children get through their trauma.

They are also hoping to develop the new ‘Smart Ambience Therapy’ (SAT) for use in a range of applications. Art therapy has proven successful in helping trauma patients externalise their feelings. And taking that a step further, researchers and therapists in Hong Kong have incorporated Virtual Reality into the treatment.

Instead of just drawing pictures, children who have suffered physical and mental abuse can take part in a series of “virtual activities”. Games like throwing paint at a wall is encouraged, or reaching out to touch bubbles – actions that encourage children to take positive risks. Professor Horace Ip, City University of Hong Kong, said: “Obviously it can be applied to emotional abuse, bereavement, children with learning difficulties. Now it’s not only restricted to children that need therapeutic help, obviously for professional development, it is also applicable.”

Beyond the fun and games, SAT does the serious job of helping traumatised patients heal, by expressing what they cannot say in words. The children are told to choose an animal to represent the person who has hurt them. They are also taught to say ‘no’ to create safe boundaries for themselves.

The reward – being launched into a secure and comfortable “virtual” environment. Julia Byrne, President of Hong Kong Association of Art Therapists, said: “Here, they meet the Sun and the Moon and the peaceful music, and often will lie on the floor and just hum or just look-up and have this most surprised look on their faces and they do express, they feel peaceful, so going into this SAT therapy, very quickly they have this sense of peace and trust, to be able to work through their issues.”

Funded by the Hong Kong government, SAT was developed at a cost of some US$130 million. Now that the trial has shown much promise, SAT’s developers hope to build a therapy centre for the public focusing on the use of this treatment. – CNA/de

Source of information:

5 responses to “Virtual Art Therapy to Help Abused Children

  1. I seem to be able to draw better than I speak. There is also safety in art. Most times people won’t tell you your art is wrong. There’s a safety net with art, the chance of rejection or contradiction is less.


  2. I agree completely with you Austin. because art is how each individual person views it, there is no right or wrong answer. when you speak though, you always have some one telling you that you’re wrong. when I go to speak, it’s always through nervousness that I do it. there’s no logical reason for it, but I am nervous. I’m hoping possibly to go to college for art therapy to help children who just can’t talk about their problems out loud, but can express that in their art, or, as you put it, their safety net.

  3. Does anyone know if this form of art therapy is being used/developed/studied in the US?

  4. Pingback: Virtual Art Therapy to Help Abused Children – Hong Kong Art Therapy

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