Mmegi Online :: Art therapy used to help vulnerable children
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Last Updated
Friday 24 June 2016, 18:01 pm.
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Art therapy used to help vulnerable children

Stepping Stones International (SSI), in partnership with the European Union‘s Empowerment of Non-State Actors Programme, organised a week-long workshop in Otse recently.
By Staff Writer Fri 04 Mar 2016, 12:38 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Art therapy used to help vulnerable children








The workshop was attended by social workers and guidance and counselling teachers to learn how to use art and drama safely when supporting vulnerable children.  Through the project, 28 participants made up of teachers and social workers were in attendance.

The project called ‘Weaving A Web’ is aimed at improving the lives of orphans and vulnerable children in Otse, Bobonong and Tutume.

UK Art Psychotherapists from Circle International Art, Emma Mills and Rebecca Lunn, facilitated the workshop, as there are currently no art therapy training courses in Botswana.

 “The aim of the workshop was not to train the professionals to be therapists, but to equip them with basic tools and techniques of using the arts when counselling children.  A key learning point was the risk of ‘retraumatisation’ if children or young people are pushed to explore distressing experiences before they are ready,” Mills said.

Workshop participants were given lots of opportunity to use art and drama in order to understand how they can be used to express strong feelings safely.

Lunn said art therapy is a form of psychotherapy, which uses not only words, but also the arts to help work through difficult feelings. 

“You do not need to be good at art to benefit from art therapy. It helps with confidence and self-esteem in both adults and children.  Art therapy is effective for people of any age.  It is especially good to use with children because developmentally they cannot yet express themselves and make sense of their experiences by talking,” she said.

She also said art therapy is especially

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helpful in working through traumatic experiences because these cannot often be put in words.

“Recent neuroscience research has discovered that creativity helps to heal trauma and can lessen feelings of depression and anxiety.  Art helps the right side of the brain to communicate to the left side of the brain therefore helping difficult stuck feelings to get processed”.

In addition, Mills said teachers and social workers play a big part with working with complex issues of OVC.

“A recent SSI research project ‘Evaluation of Preparedness in Government Services Against Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in Botswana’ discovered that many of sexual abuse and gender-based violence cases are disclosed by young people in schools and in social worker’s offices.  These teachers and social workers have high levels of commitment and in-depth understanding of OVC needs, but have limited access to specialised skills training,” she said.

Mills said she came to SSI in 2008 and did art therapy with OVC. “SSI staff was impressed by how effective the art therapy was. Then in 2012 SSI took the initiative to train some of their staff to use the techniques and they have been using them since,” she said.

She further said art therapy is especially effective with children and young people who are not yet able to use words to make sense of their feelings.  “Art therapy helps to develop confidence, self-esteem and resilience in children and young people,” she said.  There are no existing trainings in Botswana for Guidance and Counselling Teachers and Social Workers on art therapy.

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