How expressive art therapy can help with healing, especially for traumatised girls at our Oasis Care Centre in Guatemala

Art therapy is a key part of our ‘trauma informed care’ programme for many of the traumatised children in our care.

“I enjoyed the sessions. I was able to talk about things that I can’t with anyone else, not even my psychologist because it’s too painful or too deep. But using art or movement or clay, it’s easier for me to express what’s inside.”

Creativity is an innate characteristic in every human being. Whether creativity expresses itself through painting, writing, dancing, acting, designing, sewing, building, storytelling, or drawing, it is a direct reflection of the creative characteristic of God. There is profound fulfillment and healing that can be found in bringing something new out of nothing.

For children in particular, art is a more natural form of expression and communication, due to a limited yet growing vocabulary. When trauma enters the picture, however, verbal communication is even more complicated. There are some experiences too painful and too deep to put into words.

“I learned that I love to dance. Moving my body and listening to worship music, I am able to glorify God and express myself. I loved when we danced in the sessions.”

“…and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills - to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.” Exodus 35: 31-33

For the girls we serve at Kids Alive Guatemala – many of whom have been victims of unspeakable sexual assault - the expressive arts have been a powerful therapy tool, allowing them to work through what their words can’t reach. During expressive therapy sessions, the girls are able to paint, experiment with musical rhythm, dance, explore color and texture, write, and draw out their emotions in a safe environment where they have the freedom to express the messiness of pain and loss. It is easier to put words to the paintings, dances, or rhythms once they have communicated what has been locked away inside them.

One girl in particular struggled to open up about her past and talk about her emotions, especially the topic of her family. After only a few months of working in the expressive arts, she began opening up slowly about her pain. After a full year of this form of therapy, she shared even more of her story and one of the reasons why she had struggled to communicate her emotions and experience: 

“When I was living in my old house and bad things were happening in my family, I didn’t feel free to share what I was feeling because no one listened to me – I felt very alone. I locked my words up inside me, because I thought they had no value. But during these sessions I feel safe and free to express what I am feeling. I feel heard.”

It is incredible to witness these girls taking steps of victory and practicing bravery every day as they face their giants, take ownership of their healing journey, and begin living more fully into their identities in Christ.

“I felt like when I talked about hard things and expressed emotions a weight was lifted off. I loved writing and painting and felt I could express myself better. It was a time to relax – I feel joyful when I come here. It’s a place of peace.”

"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good  works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  Ephesians 2: 10

Posted on February 25th 2022

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