Looking forward to Cambodia

Passports. Flights. Immunizations. Student ID Cards. Visas. These are just some of the things on the long list of to-do’s (some of these thankfully are have-done’s) for the Cambodia trip. We will be in Cambodia working with Transitions from May 23-June 13. After many discussions with the staff and directors of Transitions we have a plan for the work we will be doing there. Here’s what we have planned…

Self Care Art Therapy Groups for Transitions Staff: these will focus on self care related activities with the staff from Transitions. Our self care activities will be designed to counter the effects of vicarious trauma, burn out, and compassion fatigue faced by so many care providers working with intense trauma.

NGO Workshops: These will offer basic information about art therapy and its value for working with trauma to staff from numerous local NGO’s. These particular NGO’s work primarily with sex trafficking.

Art Based Groups with the Girls from Transitions: These groups will be done with the girls going through Transitions rehabilitation program. Because we don’t believe it will be appropriate to engage in direct therapy these groups will incorporate art therapy activities that support group cohesion and offer artistic opportunities for building confidence and coping skills. Why not directly therapy? There are so many reasons for this- I’ll list a few although there’s much to say about each. 1. We are unfamiliar with the culture and the environment. 2. We are not there long enough to support therapeutic relationships. 3. Transitions focuses on empowerment and offers their own therapeutic services- our intentions are to collaborate on ways art therapy can be incorporated into this while holding the perspective that we have much to learn about what that might look like.

Group Mural: we will be working with Transitions participants and staff to create a mural at the new Shine School!

Case Consultations: These will be lead by faculty member Sue Wallingford and Transitions clinical staff. They will be a chance to directly consider Transitions’ participants’ treatments and ways art therapy may be valuable on an individual basis.

In addition to this we will be doing numerous other activities to learn about the realities of sex trafficking in Cambodia, and to learn about Cambodia culture. We will be blogging while we are there- make sure to check in on our work as we continue!

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Restoring the Sacred Feminine

Can the “sacred feminine” be restored when she has been sold, imprisoned, bound,
drugged, beaten to submission, starved, and raped over and over again with out
any words of love or praise? Can a girl who has been thrown away, abandoned in
the worst of all possible ways ever be able to trust the loving gaze of another? Can
her body ever receive a warm embrace and gentle touch meant to soothe instead of
harm? Can a girl taught she is nothing other than a vessel to satisfy the desires of
men ever believe that that same body can hold a growing child, birth a new life and
sustain her with the sweet milk of her very own breast? Or has her body been so
ravaged by disease, mutilations, and botched abortions that the hope of ever having
her own child is nonexistent?

Abandonment and abuse of this kind is the most horrendous and inhuman act of all,
stripping the girl from the very essence of her inherent sacred being, her birthright.
Leaving behind an empty hopeless shell, a body that can’t even feel or experience
life’s real pleasures, a heart that has closed shut to love and trust, because that is the
only way she knows how to survive.

During the making of this project many people have asked me, “what will you be
doing in Cambodia with these girls.” The standard answer to this question is easy
to express. “We will be working with both the Transition’s clinical and training
staff to share art therapy skills to aid toward the healing of trauma and also to bring
awareness to the wide spread devastation that sex trafficking is leaving in it’s wake.

We have specific interventions that we will share with the staff and the girls in
order to empower them through the language of art. We will hopefully be able
to offer useful skills that will not only allow the girls to express the unspeakable
through imagery but also give them art skills that will instill a sense of pride and
accomplishment in making something beautiful and praiseworthy with their hands.

But really, I think our mission is to look for the lost connection to the sacred
feminine that I imagine we will see in the eyes of these girls. To do what we can do,
and have been trained to do as transpersonal therapists. And that is to just sit with,
hold the pain, offer a truly compassionate gaze letting them know we see the light in
them and trust it can burn strong again, ignited by the creative feminine, even if just
for a moment. In these moments we find mutual healing and deepened compassion, remembering we have all walked powerfully unique paths towards hope and wholeness.

– Sue Wallingford, NCAS-I Faculty Leader