Published: 20 May 2015 at 10:53
MA Music Therapy graduate Emily Corke reports on the positive effects of therapeutic arts sessions with a group of young Indian girls
"After my MA training at Anglia Ruskin University in 2012 I started clinical work as a qualified music therapist in January 2013. I dived into the deep end, to Kolkata, with a group of arts professionals called Talitha Arts, to run a 2-week intensive course of therapeutic arts sessions with girls aged 8-18, all of whom had survived sexual abuse and human trafficking.
"The girls carried high levels of trauma apparent in their stiff and hunchbacked bodies, aged looks, and disengagement. They had learned to view thinking and feeling as either pointless or dangerous, forced to give their most intimate and vulnerable aspects of themselves to complete strangers. Fortunately they had been extracted from that nightmare, but the consequences from these traumatic events were far from concluded. The girls seemed to have learned to cope, to switch off their emotions - this was their learnt 'safer option'.
"Short-term therapy meant that we had to be careful to provide emotional support but not leave them raw and exposed, without continued support for healthy processing and development. Therefore, the therapy was focused on positive interaction: what it means to express, feel, and find positive qualities (e.g courage, generosity) within oneself and others around us. The sessions consisted of music, dance and movement, drama and art.
"Singing and breathing quickly became especially important in the treatment of their trauma. Diane Austin explains that 'the traumatised person often survives by forfeiting her own voice. Singing enables traumatised clients to recover or perhaps find their voice for the first time' [p. 135/136, 'Expressive and Creative Arts Methods for Trauma Survivors'. Additionally, utilising different arts mediums available revealed unique qualities and identity to the girls as described by Edna Foa: "creative arts therapies activate the right hemisphere of the brain, allowing access to non-verbal memory. The art making and engagement in creative activities allows the externalization of internal images, thoughts and feelings, in addition to enabling... containment of effect..." [Effective Treatments for PTSD, second edition by Edna Foa PhD published in 2009].
"We watched girls find safety in exploring their own expression and feelings, as well as finding their individual voices. As our short trip came towards its end, we encouraged the girls to keep hold of positive qualities, which they then seemed to own for themselves. We achieved what we set out to do - to leave them partially restored and with a hope for their futures."