Expressive Art Therapy Intervention Report, Dongri Children’s Home (Girls Section)

COMPLETED BY: Center for Criminology and Justice, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

This report examines the effectiveness of an Expressive Arts Based Therapy (EABT) intervention implemented from September 2015 to February 2016 with a group of girls at the Dongri Children’s Home in Umerkhadi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. Khula Aasman was invited to conduct the EABT sessions with the girls by Sehrish Altaf, a fellow of the Criminology and Justice Program at the Center for Criminology and Justice within the Tata Institute of Social Sciences’ School of Social Work. The participants in this study varied in mental and physical abilities, were between the ages of 14 and 18 years, and most shared a history of abuse and/or violence.

The sessions Khula Aasman staff conducted occurred twice a week and were facilitated by a mental health counselor and a dance movement therapist. Activities included multiple Evidence Based Practice methods such as non-competitive games, progressive muscular relaxation (PMR), affirmations, laughter therapy, and individual and group counseling. The goals of the sessions were to (1) create a safe and non-judgmental space; (2) enhance communication and self-expression; (3) identify needs and current coping mechanisms at the mental, physical, and emotional level; (4) introduce new de-stressing tools for coping with daily stressors and ultimately healing oneself for a better future.

Generally speaking, the outcomes of the intervention were positive, despite certain limitations. Most sessions had full and eager participation by the girls at the home. Mutual aid between girls was identified as a strength of the group. Feedback toward the end indicated certain activities—such as clay work, PMR, tree hugging, and interpersonal sharing or “talk time”—were favored by participants over others. Based on their experiences, staff at Khula Aasman suggest that similar activities be conducted with the staff at observation homes and similar institutions due to the high-levels of stress and possibility for vicarious trauma in these settings.

Creative Community Center: Co-Creating Alternate Creative Spaces of Entertainment for Children (Lallubhai Compound, Mankhurd, Mumbai, India)

SUMMARY: Khula Aasman conducted more than 60 sessions with the children of the Lallubhai community from May 2015 until March 2016. Their intention was to engage children every Saturday with Place for Peace games, drum circles, and craft activities. This report indicates several positive outcomes of the weekly engagements including improved academic practices and indicates Khula Aasman’s plans to dedicate more time toward building a proper Community Creativity Center with full-time workers in the community.

“Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing. The more we understand the relationship between creative expression and healing, the more we will discover the healing power of the arts…”

An Expressive Arts Based Therapy Intervention with Rescued women at Navjeevan Home

ABSTRACT: Khula Aasman did an exploratory qualitative research and an arts-based therapy intervention for the women at Navjeevan Home in Deonar, Mumbai over a period of one year (2014-2015). The objective of the sessions was to facilitate an overall enhancement of mental health in the inmates using a combination of music, drama, play, visual art and relaxation techniques.

The Expressive Arts Based Therapy (EABT) sessions enabled the building of a trusting relationship between the facilitator and women at the home. EABT became a welcoming environment for women to walk in and participate and it became an important tool for uplifting the mood of the participating women. It also provided an anchor to hold on to when their minds seemed running all over in a place where they had little control over several factors. Positive behavioural changes were noticed and positive feedback was received by the authorities at the home and by the women themselves.

THE CANVAS of expressions!

ABSTRACT: This is an evidence based study using different art forms and artistic mediums like music, drama, visual arts and dance movement within a therapeutic relationship to enhance creative and emotional expression, build self-awareness and facilitate positive feelings and transformation thus improving mental health of juveniles in conflict with law.

The intervention gave them a safe, non-judgmental and non-threatening space for expressing themselves freely. It was like THE CANVAS they could paint with colours of their choice. This resulted in positive acceptance of their actions, stress relief, relaxation and self-awareness.

This is an interim report for 3 months in which 6 full day sessions were conducted and 44 participants benefited so far. 2 more sessions are planned as part of the intervention.

Connecting through Play

Abstract: Play is an extremely important part of growth and development, and in India, it has traditionally been an integral part of everyday life, rituals and celebrations – religious and non-religious, through songs, dance, story-telling, mime and puppetry (Maitra and Seshadri,2012). The incorporation of play with the social fabric of the child’s life was a means to promote social interaction and aid in the acquisition of social skills. This was crucial in building emotional competence. Nevertheless, there has been no adequate research on play as a central life-activity, especially in the post-urbanized context. Khula Aasman attempts to fill this void by exploring play in its natural form, linking it to child well-being.

Research has affirmed the positive connection between child mental health and unstructured play, but while most of these studies tend to focus on the consequences of urbanization and modernization in terms of consumerist lifestyles, increased mass media exposure, dual-career families and reduced support systems, Khula Aasman aims for providing evidence of the value of play in a child’s overall development, with special emphasis on emotional development. The scope of this paper is primarily centred on unstructured or ‘real’ or ‘free’ play implying their spontaneity  and played out in streets, open spaces, or playgrounds.

In this paper, Khula Aasman attempts to detail their intervention with children in a high risk, marginalized community through the adaptation of the principles and ideas of Non-competitive and Cooperative play with Expressive Art techniques. Through this intervention, the team was able to bring together children within a fragmented space, and co-create a safe space for children to experience freedom and joy.