A Grateful Heart, full of sparkling moments- PART I

By Emily Wilson

We started our work this week with an amazing organization called Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC). At a welcoming orientation on Tuesday afternoon, we learned the extent of the work that CWCC does. I was inspired and impressed! I was also honored that several staff came to discuss the week’s collaboration even though it was a Cambodian holiday (Royal Ploughing Ceremony). CWCC is an organization started in 1997 by a group of Khmer (Cambodian) woman with a desire to help and offer a shelter for other women who had been abused, raped, or trafficked. Since then, CWCC has grown, with 4 regional offices and one more on the way. CWCC approaches its work holistically, with community-based, rights-based and empowering programs and projects. Just within the Banteay Meanchey office where we worked, there are nine extensive programs with efficacy to reach gender based violence issues from many angles:

1. Monitoring Program: http://www.cwcc.org.kh/?p=15 The first step of contact works with victims right away, documents their stories, provides initial care and compassion and coordinates with local authorities.

2. Legal Assistance: http://www.cwcc.org.kh/?p=17 Lawyers and legal professionals help to file complaints, represent clients at all levels of the court, and assist with legal processes, all free of charge.

3. Community Organizing: http://www.cwcc.org.kh/?p=26 Local ‘Duty Bearers’ help their communities understand and adhere to the laws about rape, domestic violence and trafficking. They hold training about the law and involve local stakeholders including health professionals, community counsel, and police. They also organize public awareness events such as international women’s day.

4. Anger Management: http://www.cwcc.org.kh/?p=30 This is a project geared towards the men in the community, particularly violent or abusive men. This project includes psycho-education about the laws, domestic violence and anger management, as well as coping techniques. After going through the program, participant serve as peer counselors for other men, bring awareness in their communities, and work a hotline number for men to healthily express and release anger.

5. Safe Migration and Reduce Trafficking Project (SMART): http://www.cwcc.org.kh/?p=28 This project provides psycho-education about unsafe migration, especially due to trafficking, of women and children at border crossings. It includes peer educators that bring the information and awareness to their communities.

6. Safe Shelter: http://www.cwcc.org.kh/?p=19 The safe shelter is a place that victims of gender based violence, sexual assault and rape, and trafficking can come to be safe. They can also generally bring their small children. The safe shelter is a protective place that provides shelter, day care, children access to school, as well as vocational training, health care, food and counseling for the clients.

7. Reintegration: http://www.cwcc.org.kh/?p=24 This is a team that helps to reintegrate clients back to their home, home community or another community. This team assesses the viability of reintegration and does follow up visits to assure that the client is flourishing.

8. Girls Access to Education: http://www.cwcc.org.kh/?p=32 This program creates scholarships for women and girls to attend school, including paying for books, uniforms, supplies and tuition. Many girls have attended University because of this program.

9. Micro Finance Project: The micro finance projects works within communities to help facilitate women creating savings groups, so that communities work together to save and loan money using a process that is agreed and fair to them. There are also grants, mentoring, and coaching for groups of women who want to create a joint small business.

The next day (Wednesday) we met with dedicated and caring members of CWCC staff including counselors, social workers, crisis intervention team members, and caretakers to exchange knowledge, theory, experientials, and some practical applications of Trauma Informed Art Therapy. We then had group art sessions with the clients and the staff using art interventions that can be repeated later by the staff for group and individual therapy, as well as their own self-care. In the evenings, a more relaxed structure of open studio with some offerings was done for the clients.  The next two days (Thursday and today), we again met with the staff to speak about Vicarious Trauma, Compassion Fatigue and Self- Care. I saw the staff recognize and relate to this. For me, it was important to be able to speak about what it is like to be a healing professional, a compassionate heart and how hard this work can be. It was also beautiful to me, to see how self-care techniques like mindfulness, positive affirmations, yoga, and of course art therapy and art as therapy are so effective and vital!

There have been so many sparkling moments for me and as we finish our time with the clients and staff at CWCC, I am grateful for each connection, each interaction, and each opportunity to learn, share and create. A sparkling moment was the joy I felt seeing clients hanging up their first creations, Hope Flags, to make the space so beautiful (sa-AHT); it was in a child giggling and putting stickers all over an NCAS-I Student, Danielle’s face; it was seeing clients thrive in creating, even with little art making experience. A sparkling moment was the staff saying that they felt calm and engaged during the art making and it made them feel happy; it was being able to say so much without words. A sparkling moment for me was holding and rocking a baby to sleep so her mother, managing two other children, could engage in art making, A sparking moment was seeing staff create matchbox affirmation boxes to hold their successes, happy memories, and compliments from others, and seeing these being exchanged with joy. A proud sparkling moment was also leading an intervention, with the help of a translator and a lot of “third hands” and hearts. This offering was for participants to create a safe place (a sewed heart) to put their personal hopes and dreams. This “Healing Heart” intervention certainly filled my heart up with joy. In Part II of this blog, I will share my full sparking heart moments about this interventions!

Please note that while individual members have varying views on topics discussed in our blog, NCAS-I as a whole honors multiple perspectives, within respectful reason, and does not aim to censor material shared in our blog writings. So please keep this in mind while reading our blogs. And please feel free to add your perspective too.

1 2Please note that photographs are of CWCC staff or of unidentified clients, to assure the protection of the women and girls served at CWCC.

Building a Small World with Anjali House

By Danielle Rifkin

Yesterday was finally our first day at work in Cambodia, where we had the incredible opportunity to spend the day making art with over 60 children at Anjali House, one of the many NGOs we are partnering with while we are here. Anjali House is based in Siem Reap and offers free healthcare, food, drinking water, and education to children and their families that might otherwise be working on the streets. As their mission states, “We believe that no child should be forced to beg or work. We believe that they have the right to enjoy their childhood—to learn, play, make friends and grow in a safe and happy environment. These are basic rights that no child should be denied.”  Anjali House was first started by the Angkor Photo Association, a non-profit in France that puts on a photography festival every year in Siem Reap. They taught a week long dance and photography workshop for street kids that ended with a performance and exhibition. The successful ending lead to the kids finding “a sense of empowerment, pride, and personal achievement.” Since then it has slowly grown into the much more extensive “House” it is today, working to find more moments for the children to celebrate.

With all this in mind, while at Anjali House, we decided to build a sand tray and miniatures that gave the children an opportunity to create a small world for storytelling and creativity. In art therapy, sand tray can often play out stories that parallel the children’s own lives in safe way, see the universal in their challenges, and lead to the potential for resolution through play.  In order to make sure the children had all the necessities for storytelling, we established five stations of art making including: creatures (people, pet rocks, and felted furry friends), transportation (bikes, tuktuks, cars, buses), nature (trees, flowers, grass), structures (homes, ladders, bridges, tables), and food (fruit, treats, cambodian cuisine, coke). We had two groups of children, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and within those half days, the children rotated amongst the stations by class. At the end of the art making, we gathered outside to share the creations and demonstrate how to use the sand tray to build a world and then play out a story.

There are so many moments I will hold on to from this day, and I am sure each one of us could ramble on for hours about how we were touched by this experience. Here are a few I am lucky enough to share with you:

  • I was greeted by a sweet, smiling girl named Daney.  I told her my name was Danielle.  In realizing how similar our names were, her smile got even wider and she gave me a high five.
  • An intensely focused boy building an incredibly sound house giving me constant directions on where to glue
  • A sweet little girl with a large bow in her hair sneaking closer and closer to me to observe what I was doing until we touched hands and shared a smile
  • Two little boys sitting in the corner using the tuktuks and bicycles to create their own story
  • Teaching children to make flowers out of tissue paper without the need for words
  • Seeing the pride of one of the girls when I asked for her autograph when she showed me some photos that she had published in a book
  • Watching other people in our group lead introductions and demonstrations and being blown away by their skills, presence and engagement
  • The amazing inventiveness and resourcefulness of the children, putting my creative skills to shame

After a long, active, and hot day, I sat in a tuktuk heading back to the hotel glowing – not only from my sweat, but from an appreciation for the amazing work Anjali House is accomplishing and for allowing us to join them for a day of art making and play. I also wondered if any of the children were impacted as much as I was by the experience and if they learned as much as I did from working with them.

photos by James Huffman and Emily Wilson

Please note that while individual members have varying views on topics discussed in our blog, NCAS-I as a whole honors multiple perspectives, within respectful reason, and does not aim to censor material shared in our blog writings. So please keep this in mind while reading our blogs.  And please feel free to add your perspective too.

Two Days at Angkor Wat

by James Huffman

Well, we are at the end of our third full day in Cambodia and it already feels like a week has past.  There are so many things I want to write about here, and would if the time spent writing about them wouldn’t keep me from having even more experiences I would want to write about.  One of the strongest things I have been feeling so far is a deep respect and appreciation for all the people I have met along this journey.  A notable example is Chan, the translator who came to our hotel on Thursday to give us a crash course in Khmer.  He began by teaching us some basic phrases; hello, how are you?, yes, no, and no thank you, which I have found myself using the most.  Venturing out into the streets, markets, and temples of Siem Reap typically results in a barrage from tuk-tuk drivers and vendors.

After about an hour of translating, Chan began to tell us about the history and politics of Cambodia and his experiences living here.  Without going into detail, he explained the importance of speaking the truth about the government and told us that you can get in trouble for saying the wrong thing.  He also described his experiences practicing Christianity and Buddhism. He was born Buddhist, and began practicing Christianity as a child because the church taught him English and fed him when he attended.  At first he felt weird practicing two religions, but then he realized that most religions basically teach the same thing, to better ourselves.  Now he is ok with practicing two religions, he is a Buddhist Monday-Friday and a Christian on Saturday and Sunday.
Since then, I have spent two days at Angkor Wat and other Khmer temples and have said “no thank you” many many times.  Our first day at Angkor Wat began with watching the sunrise meditation at 5am.  It might have been the early hour but I found myself especially appalled and perturbed by many of the other tourists.  There was a giant tour group wearing toxic bubble-gum pink shirts, shouting to each other, and taking flash photos in dark rooms while I was trying to let my eyes adjust to better view the beautiful carvings it contained. There was an American college student I found myself stuck behind who described the millenia-old center of spirituality as “the shit”. Carvings of S hearts B and other inane graffiti in the ancient stone as well as discarded scraps of garbage were a constant frustration.
At the end of our first day I found myself disappointed.  I expected the reverence I had for the temple to be universal.  I hoped for a feeling of deep spiritual calm.  I craved silence and solitude amongst the millions of delicately carved stones.  Instead I got the hottest tourist attraction in Cambodia where thousands of people flock each day to fill their memory cards instead of their hearts and minds.  A place where people would rather stare at a screen on their camera, phone, or ipad.
It is easy to fixate on what went wrong and to feel cheated out of the experience I was hoping for.  The truth is however, I was never promised any kind of spiritual experience, or that the other tourists would be on their best behavior, or that the tour groups would know to give me some space.  I may have preferred a different scenario, but in the end it is up to me to chose whether I am going to let “what went wrong” ruin my time or not.
I returned again today, this time choosing temples a bit farther from Angkor Wat and opting to leave my camera at the hotel.  I also tried to be open to accepting and enjoying whatever happened.  My expectations were not going to change what would happen, and my frustration if those expectations were not met was not going to rewrite the past.
We took an hour tuk-tuk ride to the first temple, which by itself was an amazing experience.  The sky was overcast today which made for a refreshing breezy ride and a much needed respite from the heat.  Throughout the lush green countryside we saw children playing at school, beautiful houses on stilts, cattle grazing, rolling storm clouds, and much more.
We arrived at Banteay Srei and were immediately stunned buy the intricacy of the carvings.  Tiny delicate images and text covered almost every surface.  Sharing the temple with only a handful of others, we took our time exploring.  Fifteen minutes after arriving the skies opened up and began pouring down rain.  Only two of our five group members came prepared for the rain, the rest of us ducked behind walls looking  for whatever shred of shelter the exposed temple had to offer.  I finally found a thick window between two walls to curl into.
Lightning soon followed, quickly approaching until it was right on top of us. I only had a few brief moments to imagine the Kurukshetra War was taking place above before six barefoot children ran up soaking wet to sell us ponchos.  Alexa bought one, quickly realizing the poor quality when she hastily put it on and caused several large tears.  After some laughing at this misfortune the kids took the opportunity to try and sell her another poncho.
I was then the only one without rain protection and stuck in a window, I was an easy target for the children.  “One dollar!” they shouted “One dollar for all!”.  After some hesitation, I gave in and bought a poncho.  Their sales pitch did not end there and after a few minutes I made a deal with them (or so I thought) that if I gave them a dollar to share they would go get out of the rain, since we were now alone in the temple, there was no one else left to sell to.  I handed one of the younger girls a dollar, which only caused greater fervor among the children.
photo by Paula Ulrich
After almost a half hour, and the rain showing no signs of slowing, we decided to move on to the next temple and hopefully escape the rain.  We started our walk back and the children followed, or more specifically followed me.  Once we were outside the temple I began running and the children followed.  I stopped and the kids stopped, ran backwards and the kids ran backwards, ran sideways, jumped in circles. We were about halfway back to the tuk-tuks and only one small girl was still playing this game with me. I told her if she could catch me before I got back to the tuk-tuk I would give her a dollar.  I took off in a slow jog and she followed, staying with me the whole time and even pulling ahead at some points.  We got back to the tuk-tuk and I exaggerated catching my breath, hands on my knees and panting, she did the same.  I gave her 6,000 riel ($1.50) and she smiled and ran off.
photo by Paula Ulrich
There is much more I could say about this beautiful day, Banteay Samre which we had entirely to ourselves, the sun slowly setting at the next temple, the tuk-tuk ride back, but every second at this screen keeps is another moment better spent.  Instead I will end with what Chan said, that religions are here to help us be better people.  The temples may not have been the experience I was expecting but they gave me the opportunity to work with my own cynicism, a chance to play with the children and give them smiles instead of money, all while taking in the beauty and history, and I believe these experiences have helped in my journey to be my best possible self.
Please note that while individual members have varying views on topics discussed in our blog, NCAS-I as a whole honors multiple perspectives, within respectful reason, and does not aim to censor material shared in our blog writings.  So please keep this in mind while reading our blogs.  And please feel free to add your perspective too.

The Privilege and Consequence of Cultural Tourism

By Bethany Wells

The opportunity to visit the temples of Angkor was one of the most exciting parts of this trip for me. These temples, built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD, are an astonishing architectural achievement, representing a profound devotion to art, spirituality, symbolism, and endurance. From Angkor the Khmer kings ruled over the vast domain reaching from Vietnam to China to the Bay of Bengal. Continue reading

Approaching Fear and Finding Love

By Paula Ulrich

A good 20+ hours into our travels to arrive in Cambodia, I began to feel really uncomfortable.  The third and last flight seemed to be the hardest.  I had to go through security one more time, I was tired, I was sleep deprived, I was disoriented, and I began to lose my bearings completely.  I even had a few minutes of panic when I misplaced my wallet and passport in the wrong pocket of my backpack.  I began to become emotionally hard, pushing up against any sign of possible discomfort, including a persisting fasten seatbelt sign.  I was frustrated.  I was angry.

And I was causing myself so much suffering.

In the midst of my mental worsening of the circumstances, I turned my iPod to an audio recording of Pema Chodron’s “The Places That Scare Us,” and began listening to her talk about how we so often shield ourselves from pain by building up walls of anger, frustration, and craving.  In this moment, I saw the additional pain I was causing myself in hardening to the fact I was genuinely scared.  Scared of leaving home.  Scared of unfamiliar surroundings.  Scared of the unknown.  Scared of everything.

In hearing these words, rather than continuing down this habitual path of aversion, I was able to open up my heart to my experiences, and though I was still afraid, I was no longer in so much pain.

I see this moment as a beautiful reminder for this whole experience: face my fears of the unknown and hold myself with care.  So today, I ran with the moment – and LOVED IT.

Our first day in Siem Reap we rode in on a tuktuk (a buggy attached to the back of a motorbike) on busy streets with no stop signs and a lot of organized chaos.  We walked around the busy streets, popped into store fronts, failed at an attempt to read a map, got a massage, drank some fresh coconut juice, and more.  We even dipped our feet into a tank and let some fish nibble on our toes (a $3 exfoliating service – though I found the benefits of crazy ticklish laughter to be even better in softening my heart, rather than my feet).  Seriously, I bet if I ever am having a bad day here, I will just let some fish suck on my toes and laugh my heart out.

Even now, I feel an anxiousness creep up into my mind thinking about everything we will be doing.  But rather than hardening against it, I just try to breathe and open my heart to whatever comes along, and then I can experience love.

IMG_0044 IMG_0058 IMG_0101Please note that while individual members have varying views on topics discussed in our blog, NCAS-I as a whole honors multiple perspectives, within respectful reason, and does not aim to censor material shared in our blog writings. So please keep this in mind while reading our blogs. And please feel free to add your perspective, too.

NCAS-I Team Ready to go to Cambodia


After organizing, re-organizing, weighing and packing nearly 200 pounds of art supplies, tending to last minute details, and checking the last thing on our list, we are ready to begin our journey to Cambodia!  We have a full agenda ahead, partnering with several different NGO’s in 4 different cities in Cambodia.  We will blog as we go along, so please stay posted as we tell of our adventures.  Here is a rough schedule of our trip.

May 22 – 28  – Siem Reap – while there we will be visiting Angkor Wat, getting lessons in Khmer and working with Anjali House, a non-profit organisation providing free food, healthcare and education to under-privileged street kids and their families in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  We will be making a sand tray and miniatures with them.

May 28 – 31 – We will be on the Thai Cambodia border working with Lotus and the CWCC Safe Shelter, a counseling and re-integration program with women and children survivors of the sex trafficking industry.  We will be working with them for 3 intense days offering training to the clinical team about trauma informed art therapy and doing groups with the girls.  We will be making worry dolls, hope garlands, treasure boxes, mandalas, eye pillows, and much more.

June 1- 7 –  Phnom Penh – On the 1st we will board a bus and travel to Phnom Penh where we will visit the killing fields, the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and other sites.  We will spend time with Carrie Herbert, an Integrative Arts Psychotherapist, qualified Trainer and supervisor and Director of the Arts Therapy Services for The Ragamuffin Project.  Carrie will provide supervision and educate the team about the expressive arts in Cambodia.  We will also visit with Arn Chorn Pond, founder of Cambodian Living Arts, and a Cambodian-American refugee having survived the Khmer Rouge genocide, at his lovely home in a small province outside of Phnom Penh.

June 8 – 15 – Kep – In Kep we will be staying at The Vine Retreat, and organic farm and retreat center where we will be spending time together integrating all we have learned, sitting together and making plenty of art.  We will also spend 3 days with a women’s handicraft and development association WHADA, making handicrafts to bring back to the states for sale, with all proceeds going back to this women’s organisation.

And much much more in between.  We will be posting often, sharing lots of stories and pictures!  Thank you so much for your support as we experience good times, exciting times and some hard and difficult moments too.

Until we return…… love to you!

Boulder Burlesque Joins NCAS-I in the Fight Against Sex Trafficking

Blog by Sue Wallingford

“We strive to make the profane sacred and to unveil the shadow of sexual taboo. We actively inspire and support the reclamation of ones own personal relationship to themselves and thereby the world through owning completely the heart of ones own sexuality.”

~Jenna Noah, Madame Mercy of Boulder Burlesque


It may seem odd that a burlesque troupe and a team of art therapy students about to work with girls victimized by sex trafficking would join forces to speak out against this horrible crime.  How could a dance troupe, whose purpose is to titillate an audience by striping down to the barest essentials while dancing in the most provocative ways, have any thing to say about sex trafficking, especially when victims of sex trafficking often start by dancing at strip clubs.  And why would a group of art therapists in training want to have an association with a group of women who might be considered as perpetuating the exploitation of women?  Isn’t that a contradiction in terms or at least just a really bad idea?  Would the public understand this collaboration? Would they get the wrong idea?

These are some of the considerations Jenna Noah, the creator of Boulder Burlesque, and I had before joining together in speaking out against the sex trafficking industry at a recent performance in Boulder.  Jenna, who supports various organizations in the boulder focusing on women’s issues and freedoms, feels a strong connection to what NCAS-I is doing.  She has been a strong advocate for us since the very beginning.  So when she asked me to come to a show and speak about what NCAS-I is doing and that fifteen percent of the proceeds would go toward our project, I was intrigued to see how this collaboration could happen, plus I had never been to a burlesque show and I was curious about what I would see.  Admittedly, I was also a little afraid I might feel embarrassed by the seductive nature of the dances.  I wondered if my own deep seeded feelings of shame around sexuality would surface.

To my surprise and pleasure though, what I saw did not elicit those responses at all, but instead brought up unexpected feelings of empowerment, ownership and a deep recognition of what sexual freedom looks like.  It was clear why this collaboration made so much sense.

I think it is very difficult for women to express their sexuality without the potential for exploitation or coming off as a slut.  It is scary business for so many women, particularly women with a sexual trauma history, like the girls my students and I will be working with in Cambodia, who live much if their lives sexually imprisoned; certainly not “empowered”.

After seeing the beautiful and profound artistic dances done by this troupe I was humbled, and in awe. I realized like I never have known before, the freedom that can come from full embodied, unabashed sexuality, like what this dance troupe is doing.  I also realized what a precious gift this is, and something most of us don’t have – certainly not girls whose bodies have only been a receptacle of abuse and torture.  They will likely never know this kind of freedom due to the depth of their trauma wounds. And this is where the shame lies, because sexual freedom is the right of every human being.

Thank you Jenna and Boulder Burlesque for your support, and bringing awareness to women who don’t have one of the most basic of human rights… and for dancing in your full-embodied, creative, sexual, unabashed selves! You are beautiful, every inch of you!

Student Blog Entry: Healing trauma through art-based interventions

“Healing trauma through art-based interventions”

By Emily Seagrave

One of the most exciting opportunities for me as an emerging counselor and art therapist is the practice of designing treatment plans and art-based interventions to be utilized and shared with our partner organizations in Cambodia this spring. Because the Naropa Community Art Studio-International will be partnering with organizations that work on a daily basis with individuals who have experienced trauma, our interventions require us to skillfully integrate trauma-informed practices. Eager to brainstorm ideas, I have spent some time researching Trauma-Informed Art Therapy® and potential art-based interventions. A few preliminary questions guided my research and directed me toward the intervention featured. Note: While the intervention featured may not be appropriate for all populations who have experienced trauma, my hope is that this post will offer some insight into how art can help to heal trauma.

What is trauma and what effects does trauma have on an individual? In general, traumatic events involve threats made to the integrity of an individual’s life or body, or an encounter with death or violence that is both close and personal. Herman (1997) explains that traumatic events have the power to evoke helplessness and terror and result in changes to physiological arousal, emotion, cognition, and memory that are profound and lasting. Further, traumatic events compromise an individual’s sense of control, connection, and meaning.

How might such an experience manifest in an individual? According to Herman (1997), “The traumatized person may experience intense emotion but without clear memory of the event, or may remember everything in detail but without emotion. She may find herself in a constant state of vigilance and irritability without knowing why” (p. 34). In other words, the symptoms of trauma tend to become disconnected from the source and assume a “life of their own” (Herman, 1997, p. 34).

What role does art therapy play? Words or verbal narrative cannot describe the traumatic memories because they are experienced and remembered through vivid sensations and images (Steele & Malchiodi, 2012). Art therapy, on the other hand, allows for the trauma narrative to be processed through nonverbal expression (Malchiodi, 2005, 2008, as cited in Steele & Malchiodi, 2012). Even more, Malchiodi (2011a) explains that the sensory qualities – kinesthetic, auditory, and visual – of expressive approaches like art therapy are especially beneficial when working with trauma symptoms because of their relationship to neurological functioning and neurodevelopment (as cited in Steele & Malchiodi, 2012). Ultimately, as Steele (2003) elucidates, the goal of therapy for traumatized individuals is to encode the traumatic memory, express it through language, and successfully integrate it. However, the traumatic memory must first be retrieved and indirectly symbolized through the external means of art (as cited in Steele & Malchiodi, 2012). This essential step of externalization through art can be achieved through a creative therapeutic process called “body scan,” a somatically based art intervention briefly introduced below.

Body Scan: A Somatically Based Art Intervention

How does a body scan work? Body scan is based on Peter Levine’s “Somatic Experiencing.” It essentially combines bodily experience with visual artistic expression. An individual is asked to relax and imagine scanning one’s body from feet to torso to arms to head, noticing any sensations of discomfort, anxiety, or other distressing emotions. The individual is presented with an outline of a body (or has his or her own body outlined) and is asked to use drawing materials to indicate on the body outline any sensations noted during the body scan through lines, shapes, colors, or images (Malchiodi, 2008; Steele & Raider, 2002, as cited in Malchiodi & Rozum, 2012).

What is the goal of body scan? One goal is to help the individual visually express implicit sensations and to identify where any feelings of discomfort are felt in the body. To follow-up, the individual may be asked to add additional lines, shapes, colors, or images to the outline that might help reduce the discomfort in the body. Ideally, the individual can see both where he or she is holding trauma in the body and where resources are in the body. The ultimate goal of body scan is to assist the individual in understanding how trauma affects the body and to teach that trauma reactions are actually a physical response to stressful situations (Malchiodi, 2008; Steele & Raider, 2002, as cited in Malchiodi & Rozum, 2012).

If you are interested in learning more, watch the video above by Art2BeArt for Positive Living and Social Change – a group of Kenyan and International visual artists and therapists that uses what has been termed “body mapping,” a creative therapeutic process similar to “body scan,” in their work with marginalized groups. Through “body scan” or “body mapping,” you can see how individuals are able to externalize somatic and emotional experience, make meaning with symbolic representation through creative expression, and develop a tangible image that reconnects the different aspects of their being, all of which are key goals of trauma-informed art therapy and goals I hope our partners can work toward with help from the art-based interventions we share.

Herman, J. L. (1997). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror. New York, NY: BasicBooks.

Malchiodi, C & Rozum, A. L. (2012). Cognitive behavioral and mind-body approaches. In Malchiodi, C. (Ed.), Handbook of art therapy (89-102). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Steele, W. & Malchiodi, C. (2012). Trauma-informed practices with children and adolescents. New York, NY: Routledge.