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Art therapy for the troubled

When I get stressed I like to listen to music and relax. It’s very therapeutic as music helps me restore the balance and harmony to my body, mind and spirit.

For centuries, people have turned to the arts to deal not only with the stresses of everyday life, but also to cope with traumatic experiences. Like music, art can lift our spirits and provide hope.

Art Therapy is the deliberate use of art-making to address psychological and emotional needs, as defined by the International Art Therapy Organization (IATO). Therapists have used Art Therapy for counseling, healing, treatment, rehabilitation and psychotherapy.

In order to master trauma, it is necessary first to access the nonverbal right hemisphere, through images, sounds and movements. A person can express his/her feelings through any form of art, such as storytelling, poetry, music, dance, painting, drawing, photography and sculpture.

It is a way of telling, without talking.

An American combat veteran used Art Therapy to help deal with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was asked by the therapist to draw what his biggest problem was, and his artwork revealed an image of his head as an exploding ball, and full of hate inside.

The impact of the Iraq war still haunts him today.

In Cambodia, The Ragamuffin Project’s Arts Therapy Clinic helps traumatised and vulnerable children and young people to gain inner strength and confidence. The Ragamuffin Project consists of accredited art therapists who work with children in hospitals, clinics, schools and other facilities to bring emotional healing through creative expression.

For a 14-year-old boy who is HIV positive, Art Therapy gave him the opportunity to express the inner conflicts and struggles within him through storytelling. He suffered discrimination and bullying from people around him and hated his illness.

Over time he began to play and interact with the objects in the room, and during one session he created a battle scene between soldiers and monsters and began to express his deep feelings.

Art Therapy helped him to restore the inner resources and strength as he was able to communicate his feelings with other people more confidently.

A young girl who had been trafficked reported that nothing was bothering her and that she felt fine. Throughout the sessions, she tried to reassure the therapist that nothing bad has happened to her.

In one session, the therapist asked her to draw a picture, and she drew a picture of herself surrounded by many different coloured hearts. The girl suddenly became sad and quiet.

She later admitted that the hearts represented the bad people who have hurt her. It was only through drawing that she was able to express her experiences, her pain and her story of what really happened to her through Art Therapy.

Art Therapy is a natural and gentle way of restoring shattered minds and broken hearts. The main reason for doing the art is not the finished product but the journey.

The journey is where one finds life because one is being and not doing. That’s why we are called human beings.

For more information about the Ragamuffin Project, phone +855(0)12521032 or email: /

The Social Agenda with Soma Norodom
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.



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