I discovered NPH looking for a place to implement a draft master’s made through the European University as an Expressive Therapist and Transdisciplinary Art Therapist. I have always believed in the creative resource as a means or tool to repair emotional damage or work through behavior. When I saw the Spanish Association of Art Therapy seeking someone in Haiti, I had no doubt. I looked at the NPH website and saw the needs of the home and I knew that this was the place where I wanted to be. After three months of formalities, with the consent of the team in Haiti and through the efforts of Xavier Adsara, Director of NPH Spain, I was planning the workshop. We selected 50 children with special issues from the St. Helene home in Kenscoff.
This therapeutic technique helps to detect and resolve conflicts, traumas and fears, develop personal and interpersonal skills, helps manage behavior, reduce stress, strengthen self-esteem and achieves knowledge about oneself to expand future prospects.
Using various mediators such as music, dance, psychodrama and plastics arts, the unconscious world of the patient, their feelings, emotions and thoughts, become in shapes, lines, colors and movements and are fixed visually for study.
The artistic expression is a powerful tool that allows us to easily access the unconscious because it works with the right side of the brain related to emotion and more specifically connects from the old brain, the reptilian. (Remember that before language, the most primitive form of communication is artistic, such as cave paintings, masks, dances, songs and body painting). We know that from the rational brain, located in the neocortex: when asked how are you, the direct answer is great! (Probably we are sad that day). But the same question, asked in a plastic or expressive production, carry with it fears, traumas, or any hidden situation in the unconscious. Thus, the hidden or blocked content can be expressed and thus, be recognized, understood and accepted. It is throughout the therapeutic process that the patient is able to recognize and normalize the different aspects that not allowed in the normal development of patient´s personality. Expressive and artistic therapy does not diagnose by the aesthetic value of the work, as with the arts. This is why art education is not necessary. What is important is the meaning that the patient discovers in their creations.
Expressive art therapy is a psycological therapy that is done in close collaboration with psychologists, doctors and social workers, to provide a comprehensive response to the patient. For example, an HIV+ person in need of a therapeutic process to accept his/her situation, visualize his/her weaknesses but focus on the opportunities and current life expectancy, but they also need medical support and psychologist external monitoring in the therapeutic process of acceptance. As well, the social worker helps in the process of reintegration.
Another example is a child suffering from serious physical injuries. The therapy would be based first on acceptance of his/her body. The second focus on their physical abilities, and third, working on strengthening self-esteem. The psychologist will monitor progress in therapy and working toghether with a physical therapist, will work on the physical motor development and the physician would study a surgical solution, if it’s possible.
During the workshop, I worked specifically with special needs children, children infected with HIV who reject their situation, troubled children by previous traumas that end in depression, children with recent traumas that can disable the child for normal development if the trauma is not resolved, children with low self-esteem or need to enhance their skills, cases of loss or post abandonment depression, children that have experienced violent environments, and children with emotional deprivation, etc.
Results from the workshop were submitted to the Haiti team and to appropriate support teams to help facilitate further discussion and initiate ways to help the children.
Children have the right to a healthy future, the right to draw their own reality and choose which future they want for themselves with a healthy and positive vision. In a poor country where history and the 2010 earthquake have not benefited children, good psychological, medical and therapeutic support is fundamental. Now a small part, the detection, is done. Thanks to NPH, most of the Haitian children have a second opportunity. I am very happy to have helped give them new steps. Thank´s to all the people who made the artistic and expressive therapy workshop possible.
Continue to work for children!
Contributed by Alicia Costa Cholbi, Transdisciplinary Art Therapist
Expert in expressive therapies • Specialist in Educational Performing Arts