Art Therapy and Healing
by Karen Toloza, MSW Intern
Every day at SURVIVORS is a new opportunity to learn about and from our clients. During our monthly healing club, we help our clients learn new things about themselves and others. The Healing Club that was held last month was filled with a harmonious, positive energy that revolved around the creative expression of our clients. Our Senior Mental Health Clinician, Rachel, helped us channel our creative energy into creating mandalas. In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, mandalas are an object of meditation to aid in one’s spiritual development. The imagery depicts the universe and the symbols represent one’s spiritual journey, the cycles of life, and the interconnectedness of all living things. Through the coloring and designing of mandalas, we were able to utilize art therapy to aid in the healing process of our clients. One client said, ““I left some sections of my mandala blank because want it to represent looking at parts of my life from a clear head… [it] represents new life and moving forward.”
What is art therapy?
Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Art provides a language that is universal. Art is transformative and always has been. It’s a part of what makes us human, the ability to create and admire the beauty and the obstacles that we face. It is also a part of what helps us deal with that very world we admire.
Survivors of torture are often rendered speechless through what they have endured. They are often left with physical reminders of the torture on their bodies in the form of scars. They also will suffer from incessant headaches, insomnia and compounding health problems. Art-making provides tactile media in the form of crayons, paint, glue, paper which mirror the physicality of bodies and gives ‘voice’ to what cannot be communicated in words. As a client stated, “Coloring helps me forget everything I have going on in my life… I feel at peace.”