Unlike normal ‘talking’ therapies, Art Therapy is especially good in our country because it can transcend cultural and language barriers. Art Therapy is equally suited for people of all ages. It is accessible and helps with a wide variety of problems.
The advantage of group work is that clients are able to feel understood and heard by more than one person. The rationale for group therapy is to provide peer support and the normalisation of uncomfortable feelings through participation and relationship building.
My Art Therapy work in Cape Town is divided between three projects, which each address a specific need. The three projects are:
Khululeka – Bereavement and grief support groups for children.
In Cape Town’s troubled townships there is a massive need for the work that Khululeka does – giving support, through the unique healing power of Art Therapy, to children who have suffered loss and experienced trauma. I have worked with Khululeka since September 2012 when I ran my first support group for them. Each week there is a different theme, where the children explore their feelings and their losses. The children really benefit from these groups and we see a lot of changes over the course of the sessions. Our biggest challenge is to scale this up to meet the massive need in the townships. The benefit of the Khululeka groups is that they are short-term but effective.
Art in the Forest (Light from Africa Foundation) – workshops for carers and children.
Light from Africa Foundation is an NGO that supports other NGOs, by running free workshops for carers who work with vulnerable children at orphanages or places of safety. Their aim is to support the carers to feel better able to manage their challenging work and thus be better able to help the kids. The artistic medium is Clay Therapy. It is based at Art in the Forest, a beautiful venue above Constantia Nek. The beauty of the natural setting contributes to the strengthening and nurturing power of the day. I have been running workshops for adults through Light from Africa Foundation since November 2012. The two workshops I have designed are ‘Coping with Loss’ and ‘Healing Me’. Both are designed to help participants to feel stronger and learn some coping strategies. Through directed art activities they can grow more capable of dealing with their difficult work and the losses that the children have experienced as well as their own personal losses. Most of the carers are themselves from disadvantaged backgrounds of poverty and trauma.
Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital – Lionhearted Kids: Creative Arts Therapy and Wellness Program – individual therapy for hospitalised children.
I have been working at the Red Cross since June 2011. Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is South Africa’s only dedicated child health institution, and children are referred from all nine provinces and from all over Africa. The hospital offers a comprehensive range of specialist paediatric services. These are the sickest kids, in most need of medical help, but their psychological health needs are often forgotten. Art Therapy intervention is a valuable complimentary resource, providing therapeutic support to children at the hospital. The art offers a non-threatening way of communicating which helps to normalise the environment. It is calming, healing, and decreases the child’s stress.