When Art Imitates Pain, It Can Help Heal, a Therapy Group Finds

When Art Imitates Pain, It Can Help Heal, a Therapy Group Finds – New York Times

When Art Imitates Pain, It Can Help Heal, a Therapy Group Finds

(First published : July 14, 2005)

The psychologist handed a painting by Frida Kahlo to a woman in a group therapy session for depression recently at a Brooklyn hospital. "I want you to tell me what you see here," the psychologist, María Sesín, said in Spanish. "What are you thinking about when you see this? How do you interpret it and relate it to your own lives?"

The paintings of Frida Kahlo help women open up in group therapy for depression at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn.

The woman, Cricelva Villicres, 52, started to cry. "This is a united family," she said. "I cannot identify with them. There was so much violence and blood between my mother and father."

The painting, "My Parents, My Grandparents and I," shows Kahlo as a naked child holding a blood-red ribbon connecting her to portraits of her parents and grandparents. The 11 women gathered around a long table at Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park took turns looking at it. When it was her turn, Vilma, who is 59, said: "It makes me feel very lonely. I have two children, but I am always alone. I do not have a family like this one." Vilma, who lives in
Prospect Park, spoke on the condition that her last name not be used, to protect her privacy.

The painting is one of 12 works by Kahlo that Dr. Sesín uses to treat Hispanic women who are suffering from depression, have been abused and have physical illnesses. The sessions are in Spanish, and the paintings help the women feel more comfortable discussing their traumatic experiences.

Though the effectiveness of her novel practice
has not been extensively evaluated, Dr. Sesín said Kahlo resonated with the women in her group not only because she was Mexican but also because she confronted some of the same emotional and physical problems. The paintings used in the therapy touch on themes like infidelity, violence, male dominance and infertility. Continued….

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