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By: Expat Advisory Posted: January-01-2006 in
Expat Advisory

EAS talks to Lydia Tan, Australian-based founder of the project.

In a nutshell, what is the Art2Healing Project?

Art2Healing was established in 2005 to assist in empowering and providing individuals at risk, with psychological and emotional support through the healing arts. The project employs tools and resources of the creative process to facilitate transformation, self-awareness, empowerment and healing.

Through the use of different creative mediums such as painting, drawing, movement, dance, drama and creative writing, an exploration of self is nurtured. Within that process contains tremendous potential for healing.

The Art2Healing project is committed to supporting individuals at risk, particularly women and children through the use of transpersonal and creative art therapies. In the past 3 years, the Art2Healing Project has worked with trafficked women in Cambodia, and indigenous ethnic minorities in a child protection project with the Karen refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese Border.

The Art2Healing project sets up art therapy programs and provides trainings to its partners in utilizing art therapy within existing psychosocial frameworks. Since August 2006, the project has also expanded its work with trafficked women in Cambodia, facilitating qualitative research projects through its Expressive Art Therapy Research Methodology with the long term aim of enabling preventative and curative trafficking policies.

The Art2Healing project strives to promote art and activism, and seeks to educate the public by advocating mental health issues in trafficking and refugees through different creative art forms. It aims at catalyzing change and transformation within society through the fostering understanding, compassion and empathy through the arts.

Who are the project partners?

The project partners in Cambodia are AFESIP Cambodia, KFAW (The Kitakyushu Forum on Asian Women) and Professor Akihiko Morita from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who was the first to introduce the idea of the Expressive Art Therapy Research Methodology as part of our work.

How did it initially get underway? What started the project?

The project started as a volunteer project in Cambodia in 2005. I was working with AFESIP Cambodia, and found that art therapy worked extremely well with Cambodians, and that they responded very well to the process.

The women were in need of extra psychological and emotional support, and the healing process through the creative arts opened a doorway in which the need could be met.

From there, the project has expanded rapidly with the help of different partners into other areas such as research, trainings and advocacy through the arts, and is very open in further expansion of its work with the development of creativity in a therapeutic context to other women and children at risk in Southeast Asia.

Who are the participants?

In Cambodia, the participants are trafficked women and children who are being rehabilitated with AFESIP Cambodia. These women have been sold into being sex slaves against their will, and most of them have been traumatized through being physically, sexually, mentally and emotionally abused in the process.

What is the process?

The art therapy process utilizes creativity and art to explore the inner world and issues of the client. Usually, a topic is being explored by the client and the counselor, and the client expresses through the expressive medium an area that she wants to explore.

In the safe space, the artwork is used as a container for the issue of exploration e.g.: anger of being sold by her mother, for instance.

The counselor would then explore the creative work with the client, to find out their feelings, their needs, their strengths, their obstacles and issues around the anger. In this process, healing is being facilitated, deep insight is realized, unresolved issues start being resolved and the client is given the opportunity to be acknowledged, to be heard and validated.

It is process-oriented, rather than goal oriented and the emphasis lies in the value of the client and the understanding of the individual as a whole. The artwork is utilized as an opening in which a process of healing, self-awareness and transformation can be nurtured. Art therapy is more about providing psychological and therapeutic support than art as an aesthetic form.

And when it is all done, what do you hope the result is?

All forms of therapy are a process, and Art2Healing Project's approach to art therapy is process-oriented rather than goal oriented, and client-centered. However, it strives to promote healing, self-awareness, understanding and transformation, and the Art2Healing project seeks to aid in relieving emotional and psychological pain in the individuals that it works with.

Any participants that you are particularly proud of?

I am proud of all my participants, and am constantly in awe of all of them. They have my full respect and admiration and I feel incredibly honored to work with all of them.

In each therapy session, I walk out with such amazement of their strength, courage, bravery, resilience, honesty and their trust in the therapeutic process. They have amazing insight into their lives and openness in working through their difficulties.

There is so much beauty in the healing process, and I am blessed to have witnessed part of their healing journeys, which has touched and moved me immensely. I am proud of all of them, and what it has taken these women to survive the journey that they have been on.

Cambodia has all kinds of aids and all kinds of needs. Where does art therapy fit into the mix?

Art Therapy can be used as a tool to support existing psychosocial frameworks. It can be used anywhere that has a need for mental health support. It can be used as a creative process during intentional intervention in a therapeutic and rehabilitative community, or educational settings to foster health, communication and expression.

It promotes the integration of physical, emotional, mental and social functioning to promote well-being at all levels. It is particularly effective with individuals who find it difficult to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, and through the language of symbols and images, which is the language of the imagination, bring about a very powerful resource for healing.

What's next for the Art2Healing project?

It is looking to expand its work in Cambodia to women at risk with other trafficking and women's rights organizations.

It is also hoping to facilitate more research projects, using its Expressive Art Therapy Research Methodology in grasping the subjective narratives of trafficked women, in order to help lobby in creating appropriate and effective preventative and curative policies.

Where can people see the Art2Healing display? And how can they contribute if they like?

At the moment, there is an exhibition featuring the art works of trafficked women in Cambodia at Del Gusto Cafe, House 43, Street 95, and BKK2 Phnom Penh. The exhibition will be ongoing for several months.

The Art2Healing Project is a non-profit organization and as such relies on generous donations to fund its activities, and committed individuals to donate their valuable time and skills. If interested in making a contribution or volunteering, please contact Lydia Tan at art2healing [via] yahoo [dot] com [dot] au.


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