Breathing in and Breathing out: Expressive Arts in Psycho-Social Support Training in Korea
This article will describe an expressive therapy psychosocial training approach used in august 2014 with groups of clinicians, clergy and community workers in Korea following the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April 2014. The co-facilitators are expressive arts therapists who live in Israel and the USA respectively and the expressive arts modalities used in this programme included dance and movement, storytelling, enactment, music and visual arts. The training programme drew upon the facilitators backgrounds in working with trauma and ritual in expressive therapy practice and was developed as a support to caregivers in the development of resilience and protective factors to combat feelings of isolation and compassion fatigue.
Psychosocial support groups
Sewol Ferry Disaster
Expressive Arts Therapy
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
On April 16th, 2014, the Sewol ferry sank off the southwestern island of Jindo in South Korea. Over 300 lives were lost. Most of the passengers were high school students from Ansan city, on a field trip to nearby Jeju Island. This tragic incident shocked the community of Ansan and the nation at large, sparking a national outcry and national mourning. According to a research study undertaken by Paik et al (2015) and found in the online Journal of Korean Neuropsychiatric Association, ‘The Sewol ferry disaster severely shocked Korean society’. They conclude that ‘Policy makers should recognize that both those directly affected and the general public still suffers from the effects of this traumatic event and its aftermath. Within the Korean context, where respect for elders is considered paramount and where the greater common good is considered above all, the events surrounding the tragedy compounded the impact of this traumatic event.
The ferry sinking was a traumatic public event and a public tragedy. Photographs, television and news report carried live footage of the sinking and the images remain etched in the national psyche. (Woo et al 2015) Many of the students who drowned were carrying cell phones and were contacting their parents from aboard the ship while the ferry was sinking. The students were told to stay on board and indoors and that help was on the way. Their parents reinforced the idea that help was on the way and this resulted in parents actually bearing witness to the tragedy of their children drowning. Korea became a country in mourning, a country in shock. In addition, at the time of the incident, the captain and some of the crew jumped ship abandoning the passengers on board. As posted on istss.org, according to Chae (2015)
Thus, psychologically, the tragedy not only involved those directly affected by the disaster but also deeply shook the community as a whole. The city of Ansan fell into collective shock and mourning, and psychological intervention in the region became very important. (unpaginated)
For the authors, visiting Korea in August 2014 was an encounter in dealing with a variety of participant and collegial responses to this traumatic event including collective shock, mourning and grief. They were invited by IsraAID, an Israeli disaster relief organization, to provide arts based psychosocial support training in using the expressive arts therapies, to groups of pastors, community workers and clinicians who were working directly with the families who had lost children in this tragedy. IsraAID (2016) founded in 2001, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to providing life-saving disaster relief and long- term support in areas of crisis. IsraAID therapists and professionals from Israel, the USA and from across Asia were, at that time offering a variety of training programmes in various countries, to local government and non-governmental agencies. They had already been working in Korea prior and subsequent to the events of the ferry sinking. Psychosocial support training was given to several different groups including, clergy, educators, therapists, community workers, arts therapists, pastors and their wives and a group of North Korean refugees. A similar expressive therapy structured and ritualized approach was used with each of the groups with whom we worked. This approach will be described in this article. Our approach was predicated on the assumption and belief that the arts have a significant role to play in dealing with the aftermath of traumatic effect upon an individual and upon a society, and that arts based expression would aid in the provision of psychosocial support services and training to those caregivers who were working directly with the amelioration of the ferry sinking disaster.
TRAUMA AND THE ARTS
An arts based approach to working with trauma is built upon the assumption that engaging in creative processes that are body based and developmental, address the psychological, physical and spiritual aspects of health and healing. (Serlin 2007; Ogden et al 2006; Rothschild 2000). Moreover, engagement with the arts helps to provide a sense of normalcy, the restoration of hope, and support for psychological healing from traumatic experiences though structured activities designed to promote a sense of safety and community (Johnson 1987, 2009; Sajnani and Johnson 2014) The focus of this work is on building community and group support in order to work towards preventing caregiver burnout and developing emotional health and resiliency (Sheehy 2010). Expressive arts therapy is a time-honored form of holistic medicine that provides a source of self-regulation, creativity and rejuvenation. (Carey 2006; Dokter 1998).
Clinical research has demonstrated the efficacy of body based approaches to working with trauma (Ogden 2006; Van Der Kolk 2014). Using the arts in disaster relief training promotes emotional and physical health. This approach is not focused on illness or pathology, but on the promotion of health through a natural holistic interface between physical, emotional, social and spiritual healing (Farrelly- Hansen 2001). There is a science and art connection and the effects of the use of dance-movement therapy on stress have been demonstrated to improve the quality of life in clinical trials (Brauninger 2012). Physical effects that are health promoting from engaging through the arts include less muscle tension, less pain, better oxygenation, better circulation, sounder sleep, and better appetite. The psychological effects include expressing of feelings, lessening of anxiety, and lightening of mood (Stuckney and Nobel 2010). The arts are a valuable tool for helping to deal with thoughts and feelings about the past, present and future, and to uniquely express through these highly personal non-verbal means of communication. The creative arts offer opportunities to express emotion, enhance relaxation, increase communication, boost the auto immune system, reduce pain and empower individuals and groups through vital participation in a life affirming activity (Lewis 1993, 2003). In addition, engagement with the arts can ameliorate the effects of compassion fatigue. According to Thompson et al (2012) contextual factors influence burnout rates and can be used to predict the effects of compassion fatigue upon caregivers. In a situation where a trauma effects the entire population such as the Sewol ferry disaster it would be expected to encounter compassion fatigue on the part of caregivers.
Arts oriented approaches to working with trauma focus on creative means for containing, discharging and rechanneling painful feelings. They can strengthen individual and community resilience and connections and decrease compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout (Serlin 2012). Trauma is housed in the body. Trauma often involves feelings of ‘stuckness’ and ‘numbness’ and with children can be manifested in an inability to play, therefore therapeutic approaches involving creativity, play, imagination and body oriented therapies can be helpful. There is only a certain amount of psychological processing that can be done at the time of the trauma, then it is important to begin to move on. Engaging the Creative Process allows for a mobilization of resources (emotional, social, spiritual, physical, and cognitive).
In working with trauma it is important for people to begin to share the stories that are ‘held’ in their bodies. The arts and expressive expressions and enactments are ways of ‘telling the story’ in symbolic ways that are able to ‘hold and contain’ that is, to have coexisting within them complex and at times contradictory elements. The telling of stories and the expression of personal narratives through a wide variety of art forms to a community of witnesses can be a powerful tool for individuals to work through difficult experiences. Expression in art can be intrinsically healing (Levine & Levine 2011; McNiff 2009; Speiser and Speiser 2005). Artistic expressions and creative arts interventions are ritualistic and boundaried forms with a series of defined procedures that can lead to a wide variety of creative outcomes that can support people as they address traumatic experiences and a complex array of feelings. (Marcow-Speiser 1995,1998))
CARING FOR CAREGIVERS AND BUILDING RESILIENCE FOLLOWING TRAUMA
Caregivers, including family, friends, clergy, clinicians and healthcare providers face the realities of human suffering on a daily basis. Arts based training programmes offer caregivers an opportunity for creativity and self-expression that allows them to integrate in a healthy manner, their experiences and emotions instead of carrying them home or into the workplace. Disaster relief trainings are designed to improve the networking capabilities of like-minded people, reduce isolation and provide mutual support. As quoted on goodreads.com/ Fred Rogers (2016) says:
Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.
Art is directly relevant to building and promoting resilience because it is participatory and inclusive. It draws upon shared human experience and engages the creative process and in so doing allows for alternative visions, a sharing and collaboration with others towards building a more hopeful future. Art allows for engagement at spiritual and communal levels and aids in the development of efficacy and agency as well as bolstering self- esteem for individuals and groups. The arts contribute to social transformation and resilience in part because they serve as generators of creative ideas. In addition, they serve to increase communication and support; bridge multicultural symbolic forms; symbolize traumatic losses and hopes for the future and establish connection between the body and the brain. Resilience is the ability to cope with stress and anxiety in an adverse situation. It is the ability to recover from adversity. Resilience factors exist at intrapersonal, inter-personal, socio-cultural, political-institutional and spiritual levels of development and in society (Speiser and Speiser 2007a, 2007b). Development of resilience across all of these levels serves to aid in the development of resilience and utilization of protective factors in the aftermath of traumatic events.
Outcomes of using the arts in working with trauma include healing the body-mind and moving away from terror. It aids towards decreasing compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout through strengthening individual and community resilience and connections. It focuses on the building of resources, connections and protective factors.
RITUAL IN EXPRESSIVE THERAPY
The model that was utilized in Korea drew upon ritualistic traditions and practices inherent in the expressive therapies and evolved organically from the interactions of the trainers and the perceived effects upon the participants. It was aimed specifically at care-givers dealing with the aftermath of the Sewol Ferry sinking and was designed to prevent care-giver burnout and promote resiliency and community support. It drew upon ritualized and formalized ways of beginning and ending each training session. In the face of such a collective and communal tragedy, ritual was used to create a ceremonial opportunity for each member of the group to become present and to share some aspect of their present reality with one another. As Gunn (1986) describes it:
The purpose of a ceremony is to integrate: to fuse the individual with his or her fellows, the community of fellows with that of other kingdoms, and this larger communal group with the worlds beyond this one. (p. 62)
The use of ritual in expressive therapy derives from shamanistic traditions and can be considered as inherently healing. Marcow Speiser, (1998) writes about how the use of ritual straddles the spaces between the sacred and the secular.
In the creation and enactment of ritual what cannot be otherwise said or done can be said and can be done. What is enacted is the heart of the matter. (p. 217).
Throughout human history the use of ritual serves as a mechanism for self and collective identity definition and formation (Marcow 1995; Marcow Speiser 1998). Participating in a ritualistic presentation of self creates an opportunity for each participant to become present within a structured and predictable format and sequencing. Each participant is able to shape and form their presentation of self to the group and to the facilitators in such a way that creates meaning and order for themselves in the face of the community events surrounding them. As Barbara Myerhoff (1977) puts it, ‘not only is seeing believing, doing is believing’ (p. 223).
The elements of ritual that were used by the co-facilitators included an induction and attunement phase used in building the group, a phase of creating and sharing lifelines, or storying and re-storying, a phase of invoking the ancestors and a final phase of ending by making a commitment and announcing the intention to the group. (See Figure 1)
|Setting the intention. Poem- One Breath –holding the heart and the world-
Sharing personal stories- sounding with the sansuela
Coming into the present moment-becoming present- Using dance therapy- moving in sagittal, horizontal and vertical space.
Hands to heart, towards connection, towards sky
|Storying and re-storying –telling the story-Using the visual arts. Building community The common experience of sharing emotions and stories, learning from each other- creating community-struggling to make sense of disparate realities-learning to “hold” and to “witness”-entering into collective consciousness. Building individual and collective understanding of the 100 year “flesh and blood” lived history-life lines|
|Invoking the Ancestors||Drawing upon the wisdom of the elders, past and present. Giving praise to being alive in this moment.|
|Claiming individual and collective history|
|Giving and-finding support|
Moving into liminal space-entering threshold space-space between the present moment and the next moment
|Commitment-Announcing the Intention
Enactment and Witnessing
|Imagining the Future|
Figure 1: Phases of ritual
Our induction into the work as co-facilitators began with the separate journeys each of us made to Korea from Hawaii and Boston. We arrived and met at the airport within an hour of each other in lesser and greater degrees respectively of jet-lag and disorientation. It was raining and it continued to rain throughout most of the 12 days of our visit. Sometimes it was a light mist that rained upon us and sometimes it rained what seemed like walls of water. On our first day we went directly to work with a group of pastors and their wives in the city of Ansan driving through pouring rain on the ride down from Seoul. It felt as if the heavens were opening in sorrow and sympathy. We arrived at a Korean Church called Temple Shalom- and were most moved by this convergence of faiths. We were met with the utmost kindness and respect and gratitude even though we did not yet understand the enormity and implications of the tragedy, and were new to the culture. Our work opened with prayer. We were just beginning to find our way with being there and with working together. We felt that our hearts were opening to listen with intensity to the pain that started to slowly emerge. We were there to learn how to be of service and to pay our respects.
Following this first workshop we stopped at the Ansan Memorial (see figure 2) where the enormity of the loss was palpable and we saw photos of the victims of the disaster embedded in banks of flowers. Driving around the city of Seoul, we learned to understand the significance of the yellow ribbons we were seeing as we saw parents of children who had died protesting against the government in various venues throughout the city. Parks and Hancocks, (2015) wrote about the symbolic importance of these yellow ribbons to the parents who had lost children in the tragedy in their quest for the answers they were seeking.
In addition, lurking somewhere in the back of our minds, and across the border, was the ever-present almost invisible presence of the dark menace of the North Korean entity. We realized how little we knew about Korea and felt our limitations as artists and clinicians about how to make sense of the impact on the Korean narrative of the sinking of the ferry when we knew so little about the narrative to begin with. We felt the utmost humility about our lack of knowledge as we began to enter creatively into this journey towards meaning making and being able to be of service to others in this new place. Lederach (2005) writes about this kind of humility as ‘a journey toward understanding and locating the soul of place’ (106). He continues ‘The soul of place seeks a different understanding. It represents a kind of inner voice that speaks to each of us personally, calling out to understand the nature of the place where we find ourselves and the nature of our place in that location’ (p. 106).
Figure 2 –Ansan memorial
While we were in Korea, on nights, when jet lag prevailed and the raining walls of water and darkness prevented any outside excursions or possibilities, the only English TV station, which was CNN, played over and over again the same scenes of the conflict raging in Israel and Palestine, the ‘iron dome’ protecting the country against the rockets that were besieging Israel, the journalists who were beheaded by ISIS, the protestors in Ferguson and other news happening at that time. It was an almost surreal juxtaposition as we began to find our way to be of service to the clergy, clinicians and community workers who were working directly with those affected by the tragedy. We knew only one thing for certain- we would find our way by offering what we knew and calibrating it in response to what we felt was needed as the ‘soul’ of this place began to move in us. We knew that our facilitation was a work in process and that we would calibrate our ‘offerings’ and refine them as we moved deeper in the work. We knew from the start that there were some groups that we would work with only once and other groups we would see several times. We used more or less the same structures with each group even though each group was its own entity with its own energy and vitality.
INDUCTION AND GROUP ATTUNEMENT – OPENING PHASE
Each session opened with the reading of a poem and the passing of objects in the circle as each participant introduced themselves to the group and to the trainers. A translator was provided to translate from Korean into English for the trainers and from English into Korean for the participants who needed this translation. The opening sharing provided for an ‘induction’ phase in the evolution of the training ritual.
At the start of each session we began with a poem by a Korean poet read first in English and then in Korean, by the translator. This poem entitled ‘One Breath’
is written by Moon Tae-Jun as referenced by Tae-jun, Song, and Brandel, (2016), and is considered by the facilitators as an evocation of life and death- to quote from the poem:
(this) ‘space between flowers blooming and falling…
We might call it a breath’
This opening provided a moment to begin to move symbolically from secular into sacred space. By focusing on the breath and the fading of life, using the metaphor of the blooming and the falling of flowers, symbolically and evocatively acknowledging the passing of life. It is striking to the facilitators that life begins with the first inhalation of breath and ends, for the most part with the last exhale. In the Hebrew language the word for breath or Nishimah is similar in structure to the word for soul or Neshama.
Beginning with the reading of the poem, followed with passing objects in the circle, the group continues as each participant introduces themselves to the group and to the trainers. The opening sharing provided for an ‘induction’ phase in the evolution of the training ritual. In most of the groups the participants already knew one another and had engaged in prior training experiences together through previous IsraAID activities. It was an opportunity for these participants to engage in what the late Barbara Myerhoff (1980) calls a ‘definitional ceremony’ and to take a moment to self-define in relationship to self and others. Each participant chose which aspects of self to present in relationship to themselves and their work to a community of witnesses who already know them as well as to the group facilitators whom they are just meeting. We listened not only what was said in translation, but we also listened to the quality of voice, the breathing resonant presence that each participant brought with them. As in the words of the poet Tae-jun: ‘We might call it a breath’.
The group began with the participants sitting in a circle. The facilitators are male and female and between us sat our translator. Both of the facilitators are relatively tall and certainly taller than most of the people we saw around us. We joked about invoking the images of a “good enough” mother and father. Several of the participants remarked upon feeling something similar. The opening ritual that was utilized following the reading of the poem, was a body- based ritual that consisted of holding, centering and stabilizing through focusing upon two objects, one held in each hand. After each participant finished sharing their responses and opening statements, they then passed around these objects to the person sitting next to them until the circle was completed and the objects were returned to the facilitator. These objects consisted of a small blackish ‘heart’ shaped object which was passed around in the circle as well as a small transparent glass inscribed with the continents of the ‘world’.
Figure 3: Heart and World
Each group participant held each object in each of their hands and verbally shared and told their ‘story’, in that moment, about what was in their ‘heart’ and in the ‘world’ of their work. In one hand is an ornate, ceramic heart. The other hand holds a small transparent glass sphere, inscribed with a map of the world. (See Figure 3). In our first initial group we had used only the blackish looking heart and because it invoked such pain in the participants we began to use the combination of heart and world to balance the effect of the black heart alone.
At the same time, one of the co-facilitators accompanied the ‘story-telling’ of participants with playing on a Mbira type instrument called a Hokema Sansuela. The Mbira is an African instrument used by the Shona people in Zimbabwe and one of its uses, as described by Berliner (1978) is as ‘the primary connection between the living and the dead’ (Berliner 1978: 27). It is striking that the soft, dulcet sounds of the Mbira/Sansuela in this moment transcended culture and brought attunement to a group dealing with the loss of lives and other associated losses in their community A second instrument was passed around so that each participant in turn would accompany their companion in the circle as they shared their ‘story’ about heart and world with the group. The co-facilitator kept the rhythm while group members experimented with sounding a response on the instrument. This process corresponds to creating an attunement within the group. Kossak (2009; 2015) writes about attunement that: ‘The imagination has its own kind of language, which can only be understood by responding to it with similar language’ (p. 4). Through deeply listening to each other through stories, words, sounds and images, the group begins to ‘attune to themselves and to each other’ and the work of engaging the creative process towards healing has begun.
This ritual using aesthetic objects, storytelling and musical accompaniment opened the group to a collective sharing of their experiences. Sometimes, participants would share the moment that they first heard about the sinking of the ferry. They could remember the precise location where they were in when they heard about it and how they felt and reacted to the news. Sometimes they spoke about their pain around the event and sometimes about that which gave them hope and meaning and ‘holds’ them in their work and in the world. Several of the groups we worked with were clergy members and one group consisted of pastors and their wives. This sharing sometimes deepened into moments of deep meaning and connection. Sometimes we would stop and the group would take breaks in order to pray. It is interesting to note that depending on the group we would sometimes take several hours for the circle sharing to complete.
Following this sharing, participants were guided into a series of movement and breath explorations. These movement explorations are commonly understood in the practice of dance-movement therapy and are based upon the work of Laban (1966; 2011) and Dell (1966; 1977). Participants would be guided from moving backwards and forwards and side to side while seated and eventually into standing and moving in space. Beginning with breathing into hands on belly or rocking backwards and forwards into moving into sagittal space, is a way of being able to re-connect to the body and to move into the forward and backward dimension. Sagittal space is considered to be the plane where the most intimate acts occur, it is the plane considered to be the place of attack and defense, of moving backwards and forwards in space. Developmentally it is the earliest and most primitive plane of movement where the human infant is located at and from birth before developing the physical capacity to move itself independently in space.
Moving from sagittal space into horizontal space is beginning to move from side to side, breathing into the sides of the rib-cage, beginning to move into the plane of communication. Developmentally the infant begins to move into this plane as it reaches to objects and people around it. It signals a new pathway into moving in the world. Moving from horizontal space to vertical space, breathing into the upper chest, into the plane that goes up and down into space, into the plane of presentation of self. Developmentally the infant moves into the vertical plane when it begins walking. Recapitulating this developmental progression and sequencing becomes an opportunity to ground inter and intrapersonally and to connect to others interpersonally. Moving from sitting to standing, participants move with the leader, hands to heart, hands towards each other, towards connection, and hands to sky, towards spiritual connection. Each group would open and close to this same ritualized process.
It is interesting to note that during breaks between activities several of the religious groups would sing Korean Christian hymns. One of the co-facilitators often knew the English words for many of these hymns and would end up singing the English words (albeit off key) to the hymns alongside the Korean group members. Occasionally, they and she would dance to the singing of the hymns.
WORKING WITH LIFE-LINES- STORYING AND RESTORYING
Following the induction/attunement phase of the group members would work on creating life-lines on strips of paper, writing and/or drawing about their own personal trajectory of experience, beginning with the day of their birth and ending with the day on which the training took place, including the moments of trauma. See Figure 4 for an example of a lifeline drawing
Figure 4: Jun Kim, our translator …Holding up his lifeline drawing
It is our belief as facilitators that tracing the developmental influences of supportive influences such as people, places and events serves to root participants in the fullness of their own developmental pathways and that supportive influences at certain moments of development help to develop the protective factors which are needed in troubled times. Telling one’s personal story can access subtle yet powerful forces for healing.
After completing their lifelines participants lay out their lifelines on the floor making sure that their individual lifelines cross at some point with the lifelines of others. At the points of intersection, participants are asked to recall those particular moments and to look for similarities and differences in those moments. There was a whole group interaction that would occur, of people trying to learn about their experiences in relationship to the experiences of other people. Though the information on the individual timelines was specific and deliberate, where they crossed was random. That was the facilitator’s way of telling participants that any moment could be a significant moment. Eventually participants divide into small sub-groups to discuss and share their lifelines. After sharing their stories in small groups, each sub-group created a new story out of elements of each of their stories and performed these new stories as group vignettes using musical instruments and scarves as props for their enactments. Individual stories become group narratives. Sometimes these are portrayed as myths, sometimes they are comical, sometimes they are stories about creation and destruction. In many of these enactments we see developmental sequencing across the generations. Sometimes what we witnessed in these ‘storyings’ is a ‘restorying’ that can be at times light hearted and at times painful.
Invoking the ancestors
Lederach (2005) has written about the importance of storytelling in community and how every individual carries within them their own narrative history which consists of their remembered history as it is lived in the past, present and future. Each individual carries the time frame experience of what he calls their own ‘100-year flesh and blood history’, that is the cumulative experiences of their parents, their grandparents and their ancestral history as time- framed encapsulated experiences attached to ‘flesh and blood’. He maintains that our survival as a species depends on finding place, voice and story, individually and collectively.
As facilitators we thought about how, moving forward, this traumatic event of the ferry sinking will become part of the Korean narrative and how replete with solemn magnitude this moment is as part of the ongoing narrative that is always in formation. Lederach points to the significance of what he terms the ‘past that lies before us’ He writes:
This is the challenge of restorying: It continuously requires a creative act. To restory is not to repeat the past, attempt to create it exactly as it was, nor act as if it did not exist. It does not ignore the generational future not does it position itself to control it. Embracing the paradox of relationship in the present, the capacity to restory imagines both the past and the future and provides space for the narrative voice to create. As such, the art of imaging the past that lies before us holds close the deep belief that the creative act is possible (p. 149).
It is our belief as facilitators that each individual carries within the impact of those individuals and events, both positive and negative, that have left their imprint on the psyche. Some of these people can be family members, both alive and deceased, or historical figures or literary and cultural figures. We ask participants to line up with their hands on each other’s shoulders and to imagine that the hands on their shoulders are the hands of the people who have supported them throughout their lives going back through the generations. When each participant feels that they are grounded and standing their ground with remembered support we ask them to tell the person behind them that they are ready. We experiment with participant’s ability to stand their ground when pushed upon by the person behind them. Rooted in their own history, in storying and restorying that history, we move into the final phase of this training ritual where we will be asking people to make a commitment moving forward and to announce that intention to the rest of the group as a group closing.
Commitment- Announcing the Intention- Ending the Group
In his discussion of ritual, Some, (1993) writes:
We need ritual because it is an expression of the fact that we recognize the difficulty of creating a different and special kind of community. A community that does not have a ritual cannot exist… What we need is to be able to come together with a constantly increasing mindset of wanting to do the right thing. Even though we know very well that we don’t know how nor where to start’ (p. 71).
In preparation for the ending of the group we ask each group member to think about what they intend to do with the training moving forward. Like Some (1993) we are trying to create a special sort of community, albeit it only in this moment where we want to do the ‘right thing” for each participant even as only a starting point. We ask the question: ‘what are the next steps you need to take for yourself in your personal and professional life moving forward’. In some groups, where we have more time to spend with the group, we ask participants to create an image of what this might look like. Some participants create a collage, or a song or a dance, or a mobile to share with the group as they make their commitment to themselves and to each other and announce their ‘intention’. Each participant is creating a new reality, changing their narrative as informed by the process they have undergone in the group. A new collective narrative is beginning to form. Cobb (2013) describes a process whereby stories and narratives can be changed and notes that ‘it is important for all members of the group to have a new identity, one that is resonant with the new narrative’ (p. 219).
We end in the creation of a new narrative. It is a new narrative for us as well as for the participants. We end with gratitude and thankfulness for finding a way of being of service in the face of such deep pain and loss. Our work together and our offerings and sharing of what we know about working with creative process and imagination, through the arts, has been accepted and validated. We came to a country in mourning where the bindings of community had been severely strained and were at breaking point and we were taught about humility and about love.
When we are done, we end as we have begun. We raise our hands to our hearts and our hands to each other in community and finally together we raise our hands to sky.
(See Figure 5)
Figure 5: Hands to Sky
We end our work with the words of the poet Elizabeth McKim (2003) who says:
The heart of the matter rests in the roof of the sky
We only go by
We only go by
We are scared and sacred
We are scared and sacred
We are scared and sacred
In the hoop of the world.
And what is unfinished remains unfinished
And what is finished, begins again
And the green grows over and over
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Published online 2015 Sep 3.
Avi Hadari MA is an Expressive Art and Gestalt Therapist. He was the former Head of the MA Program in Drama Therapy in the Lesley University, Israel Extension Program. He has taught at New York University, Brandeis University and the University of Michigan. Avi continues to teach and supervise Gestalt Therapy and Expressive Art Therapy internationally. He is a consultant and a supervisor in his private practice.
Contact: Hakibbutzim College of Education, Kibbutzim College
149 Namir Road, Tel-Aviv,Israel
Vivien Marcow Speiser, PhD, BC-DMT, LMHC, NCC is a Professor and the Director of the Institute for Arts and Health, Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has used the arts as a way of communicating across borders and across cultures and believes in the power of the arts to create the conditions for personal and social change and transformation. As Director of International and Collaborative Programs at Lesley and former founder and director of the Arts Institute Project in Israel, she has been influential in the development of Expressive Arts Therapy in that country. Her current interests are in generating community training and research partnerships in the areas of working with trauma and cross-cultural conflict resolution through the arts.
Contact: Lesley University 29 Everett St. Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.