Category Archives: art therapy

Art of healing Aesthetics and art therapy activities can help young offenders

Bangkok Post : Outlook

Art of healing

Aesthetics and art therapy activities can help young offenders gain a new lease on their lives


The assignment was to create a seal out of a lump of clay. But Pat, a 14-year-old boy, had decided to produce a family of seals. He made seals of different sizes: A big one in the centre, several medium-sized ones near it and some tiny seals on the back of the big, centre animal. “This big figure is the mother seal, and the rest are her children,” explained Pat, a crew-cut boy wearing the mandatory yellow T-shirt and navy-blue pants uniform.

!”Where is the father seal then?” asked a psychologist who was observing the art therapy process in action at the three-day special workshop held inside the compound of the Pathum Thani Provincial Court (Juvenile and Family Section). Pat grinned, “He ran away with another woman.” Chuckling, he looked at the questioner. “He is irresponsible.”


A lull followed as Pat continued perfecting his sculptures, while psychologists, social workers and court officials jotted down notes.

Pat’s answer may provide an important clue that could help authorities improve the process aimed at healing him and fellow detainees while they are in the remand home, so that, hopefully, they will never be sent here again.

Works from the art therapy process reveal and heal the inside worlds of young offenders _ their yearning for love and understanding, their lack of problem solving skills and hope for the new chapter of life.

!”The art therapy process helps uncover the complex nature of the youngsters’ hearts, where the problems lie,” said Sabine de Raaf, an art therapist from the Netherlands.

“Unless we are able to learn the roots of what brought them here to this detention centre, we cannot find ways to help them,” she added.

Sabine offered art therapy sessions to young offenders at the Pathum Thani Provincial Court (Juvenile and Family Section) during the five months that she was a volunteer teaching at Tridhakasa School.

!Young offenders and the crimes that they commit reflect social ills, said Kornkanya Suwanpanich, chief judge of the Pathum Thani Provincial Court (Juvenile and Family Section).

!”Most of these youngsters are from poor and broken families. Their parents and guardians are busy making ends meet, thus having little time for their kids to guide them through the maze of right and wrong,” she said. Many suffer from abuse by family members.

The other culprits, the chief judge pointed out, are consumerism values in society and irresponsible media.

The ability to handle the black marks on their pictures reflects the youngsters’ ability to deal with difficulties in real life.

In the left picture, the black mark is bolded and separated from other colours, while the right picture shows the ability of youngsters who can turn the black line into something funny, making it part of the whole picture.

!”Many young people steal because they want to be accepted in society. They want to have the brand-name cellphones and to wear the fashionable clothes splashed in the media and advertisements,” added Kornkanya.

The situation seems worsen every year.

Divorce rates and family-related lawsuits are on the rise. Last year, there were 915 new cases in the Juvenile and Family Court, 200 more than the number five years ago.

!The most common crimes that result in 10- to 18-year-old youths being sent to remand homes are theft, violent and brutal rows, sexual offences, online and Internet addiction, gambling, drug abuse and truancy.

Punishment is not the cure for the rising crime rate among the young.

“If we want to help these young offenders, we need to change our attitude,” said Usa Thanomphongphan, director and founder of Tridhaksa School, who initiated the art therapy project for youth in correctional institutes.

“There are no evil or bad people in this world. They are just weak people who cannot get through life’s temptations and challenges. They need empowerment.”

Sabine de Raff, art therapist from the Netherlands: “Art therapy provides processes to help us find our natural healing powers.”

“Humans are creative beings. We can always create and re-create our life. If people believe in their own potential, they can, and will, change for the better,” said Usa.

In a “give and take” activity, art therapist Sabine asked each of the boys to draw an outward spiral on a small sheet of paper and an inward spiral on another small sheet of paper. Then she asked them to write inside the first spiral what they wanted to give to the world and, inside the other spiral, what they want to receive from the world.

!The aggressive, ignorant-looking boys wrote almost in unison: “Love, warmth, hugging, caring, intimacy, happiness, flowers and sincerity” inside both spirals.

It is this evidence that convinces her that these boys can be healed and become good citizens in society.

“Art process activities help them to reach out with their hearts and feelings,” said Sabine.

Continued here:


Art therapy project in Gaza massacre

– Art therapy project to ameliorate devastating psychological affects on children due to Gaza massacre

Art therapy project to ameliorate devastating psychological affects on children due to Gaza massacre

07.03.08 – 12:56

IImagemage Kristen Ess

Palestinian children are routinely subjected to scenes that no adult should have to witness and the psychological affects are devastating.

Insomnia, anemia from inability to eat, bed-wetting, stunted psychological development which continues to affect Palestinians later in life, fear of leaving the home, are just some of the issues mentioned by doctors in the southern Gaza Strip throughout years of interviews.

“Our children are facing fear, anxiety and tension after living through tragedy and violence, the scenes of death and destruction.”

Samih Abu Zackheh, the Director of the Center of Arts for the Palestinian Child, focuses on art therapy.

He describes the pictures that the children draw as having recurrent themes: tanks, warplanes, bulldozers uprooting trees, smoke rising from homes after missiles have hit, ambulances.

“These have become the dominant figures in the drawings of childhood.

He says that of utmost importance is to instill some sort of normalcy and routine into children’s lives, which is difficult under the best of circumstances under occupation. And after the recent spate of killings in Gaza, over 125 killed by Israeli forces in a week’s time, and with Israeli forces seriously impacting the rights of children, this is difficult, but crucial. Israeli forces also killed 20 school children in Gaza and two in the West Bank during the week.

To be happy, to play in the sun, to hold soccer matches without fear of being shot, as has been the case in Khan Younis Refugee Camp, are among the rights of children. Imprisoning chidren at 11 years old, opening fire on elementary schools, shooting children in the legs who throw stones at the Old City gate in Hebron, are all violations of the right to childhood.

In addition to the art therapy project, there is other work underway to find ways to provide direct psychological counseling to both child and parent, in order to help parents who are struggling with their own losses, guide their children through the ongoing tragedies.


Video interviews

Video interviews with art therapists in the Netherlands 

Art and the children of Darfur

Using Crayons to Exorcise Katrina

September 17, 2007

Art Therapy – New York Times

Trinity Williams, a child displaced by Hurricane Katrina, works with Karla Leopold, an art therapist, above. At right, other work by children at a FEMA trailer park in Baker, La., shows that the trauma of the hurricane has influenced thoughts of home and safety.

BAKER, La., Sept. 16 — One of the most common images in children’s art is the house: a square, topped by a pointy roof, outfitted with doors and windows.

So Karla Leopold, an art therapist from California, was intrigued when she noticed that for many of the young victims of Hurricane Katrina, the house had morphed into a triangle.

“At first we thought it was a fluke, but we saw it repeatedly in children of all ages,” said Ms. Leopold, who with a team of therapists has made nine visits to Renaissance Village here, the largest trailer park for Katrina evacuees, to work with children. “Then we realized the internal schema of these children had changed. They weren’t drawing the house as a place of safety, they were drawing the roof.”

Countless articles and at least five major studies have focused on the lasting trauma experienced by Hurricane Katrina survivors, warning of anxiety, difficulty in school, even suicidal impulses. But few things illustrate the impact as effectively as the art that has come out of sessions under the large white tent that is the only community gathering spot at Renaissance Village, a gravel-covered former cow pasture with high truancy rates and little to occupy youngsters who do not know when, or if, they will return home. Even now the children’s drawings are populated by alligators, dead birds, helicopters and rescue boats. At a session in May one 8-year-old, Brittney Barbarin, drew a swimming pool full of squiggly black lines. Asked who was in the pool, she replied, “Snakes.”The drawings, photographs and sculptures, about 50 of which went on display Sunday at the New Orleans Museum of Art, are a good indicator of how children are coping, said Dr. Irwin Redlener, the co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund, which has provided mobile mental health clinics to some families along the Gulf Coast. The art also shows that the trauma did not end with the hurricane.
Continued here…

For Wounds of the Mind, The Healer’s Art Is Art


October 29, 1997


On paper, with paint and pencil, Ibrahima Sory Bah says what he has not been able to say in words, the pictures unleashing long-unspeakable memories of his arrest and torture in Guinea a dozen years ago. An artist and graphic designer who fled his West African homeland and landed in the Bronx in 1990, Mr. Bah, a 47-year-old worker at a Long Island window shade factory, is only now coming to grips with his ordeal — another example of the growing use of art therapy to treat victims of extreme abuse.

The discipline, which has its own professional journal and is now widely accepted as a therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, or psychic wounds that show up later, dates from the 1940’s and later gained favor as a way of helping Vietnam veterans cope with overwhelming ”toxic” images and regain a sense of mastery over their feelings.

Art therapy was used to treat 28-year-old Matthew Gross, who was cut down in a fusillade at the Empire State Building in February, and it is used at the Berlin Treatment Center for Torture Victims and 40 other such clinics throughout Europe. It does not require any artistic ability on the part of the patient, practitioners say.

Looking over a picture showing a gagged and crying figure last week in the Manhattan office of his art-trained psychotherapist, Ani Buk, Mr. Bah said that picking up a paintbrush and pencil again after so many years had helped him confront his nightmares and banish depression, as well as quit smoking and binge drinking. ”It make me rule my courage and ability,” he said in halting, French-accented English. ”It give me a high morale so I’m not afraid to explain what happened to me.”

Ms. Buk, who is treating him without charge, said that while extreme stress suppressed the functioning of the part of the brain that orders memory, causing flashbacks and nightmares, making art helped reorder memories ”in the form of a concrete record that gives them a context.”

”You can put it down,” she said. ”You can make changes. You can literally put it away, in a folder.”

”We don’t analyze the artwork for the patient,” she said. ”Many things have to be left unspoken. The very reason art therapy works is because words are too painful.” The therapist is there largely as a ”witness,” she said, intervening to help contain the difficult emotions unleashed by the process.

Article continued here

The art of healing

Ani Buk’s troubled patients find peace of mind through drawing, painting, and sculpting.
by Elaine McArdle

photographs by John Rae

The young couple were recent immigrants from West Africa, relishing their new life in New York City, expecting their first child, and happily sharing in the American Dream. One Friday afternoon, a month before the baby was due, the woman was home alone and answered a knock at the door. A man dressed as a postal worker asked her to sign for a package from her homeland. Moments later, a phalanx of undercover police officers burst into the apartment with guns drawn. Arrested on drug charges, she was thrown in a cell with drug abusers and prostitutes and denied the requisite phone call to arrange for help.

Her husband spent a frantic weekend searching for her. When he finally found her, on Sunday evening, the couple learned that drug-sniffing dogs at customs had reacted to the package, which police then delivered in a sting operation.
It turned out the package contained harmless herbs sent by an African midwife to aid the woman’s pregnancy. The charges against her were dropped, but the emotional trauma of a weekend in jail wouldn’t fade so easily.

Article continued here