HEAL – psychological support sessions through artistic language

Friday 26 February 2021

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Even if during this period so many activities are paused, we managed to move forward and we continue providing support to third-country national women survivors of trafficking.

We have developed Toolkit “Fanzines and coping with trauma” and started the implementation of the psychological support sessions that are being implemented with and through art therapy. Here, the participants create artistic products – their own fanzines – a vessel by which they can define who they are and what they want to be. Through a combination of gender- and culture-sensitive methods (ethnopsychology/ethnopsychiatry) and the use of art in the sessions, women survivors of trafficking are assisted to deal with difficult emotions, facilitate healing and reclaim their lives while feeling heard and understood. The methodology is explained in the Toolkit for the psychological support sessions: Fanzines and coping with trauma and here our psychologist and art expert share some hints on the methodology and implementation in Palermo.

Maria Chiara, psychologist for the HEAL project

Could you describe in one sentence what ethnopsychology is?

Ethnopsychology is a discipline that combines the approach of psychology with that of ethnology, and takes into account the culture and language of origin of people who come from different countries and cultures.

Briefly, how is the methodology being implemented with women survivors of trafficking?

In ethnopsychology the linguistic-cultural mediator is a central figure for the care of foreign people; in the case of survivors of violence, this figure is even more important because women can freely share their suffering in their original language and can express themselves also through their values and their cultural habits, without fear of judgment, for empowerment and and the development of self-esteem.

What is the atmosphere during the sessions?

The atmosphere is one of sharing and participation with moments of reflection and play.

What do you think, how have women been changing during the sessions?

The women used the creative moments to get to know each other better through the choice of images. The sessions also facilitated the request for individual support from the psychologist.

Marianna, art expert for the HEAL project

In one sentence, what are fanzines?

Fanzines are small handmade publications of different formats that can be visual or include text also, about anything, such as personal stories, subcultures or collections, and produced by one or a group of people at little or no cost. Fanzines are also a form of individual expression within a community.

What are women thinking/saying about the fanzines?

Women love creating fanzines, because it’s something they do with their hands, it’s creative, they relax and they really enjoy searching for images in the newspapers to create collages, they are surprised at how their thoughts and emotions can be transformed into images.

How do women feel during the sessions?

Women have realised that there are different languages of communication and I think this makes them feel more free to express themselves. Language barriers and the barriers of emotional expression, of telling one’s story, are broken down by art. For these reasons they feel safe, thanks to the support of experts, and they feel happy to share the same experience with other women.

Can you provide any recommendations to other art experts who would use fanzines in their work with women?

Fanzines, like art in general, are a means of giving form to the emotions and experiences of each person. Through artistic language, fanzines become a bridge of communication with the other, privileging the sphere of non-verbal language with the use of artistic techniques, such as collage, painting, photography. I therefore recommend following the participants’ natural approach to artistic techniques and leading and guiding them in telling of the stories in a transversal way, not stating why you are doing it, but giving hints and input with images, with examples of visual communication, it will then be up to the participants themselves to take note and find their own way to express their emotions.


For further information

Follow us with the hashtag #2HEAL, see the project website and read more about HEAL.

Contact Ruta Grigaliunaite: ruta.grigaliunaite@cesie.org.