Kids' problems are serious too
Pictures, colours, rhythms and beats, all help bring to fore the emotional problems of children. This is art therapy. LEELA MENON takes a look at this method of solving emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness and personal growth.
HIDDEN PERSONAS of kids emerge through lines, colours, rhythms, and beats, revealing personality dimensions that remained under wraps even to the kids themselves and their parents. That such exposure through art therapy can cure personality flaws and correct erring behaviour has come as a welcome realisation for many parents in Kochi.
What is art therapy? " It is a combination of psycho therapy, blending art, creativity and expression of the participant. Art therapy can be used to solve emotional conflicts and foster self-awareness and personal growth," explains Ms Sajani Velayudhan, clinical psychologist at the Medical Trust Hospital here. Mostly meant for children with learning or emotional problems, art therapy not only identifies the mental blocks in the psyche of children but also serves to dissolve it.
Like that of Hasya (not her real name). When first asked to draw a picture Hasya drew a picture of two coconut trees in colour and then drew a zigzag line on top in black and white, with a dot in the valley-like formation. That dot was her conception of herself... an insignificant dot. Even her home, her parents, brother and sister were all colourless and insignificant.
On the second day Hasya was asked to repeat the exercise and the picture became clearer, though still colourless. But on the third day Hasya emerged as a big girl, proving that she had found her self. She could draw the parents and the brother too, now in harmony with herself.
"I could discover her emotional problems by just looking at the picture she drew. And by the end of the week of therapy she had emerged full-grown as the child she is, in colour, while showing an intimacy with her family". That is art therapy, explains Ms Velayudhan.
Ms Velayudhan guides the children through drawing, dance and music, and interaction with each other in the six-day course given to children. "They speak out through the colours, actually ventilating their inner dilemmas and emotional stress," Ms Velayudhan explains.
Many children suffer from anxiety as well as learning difficulties and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD, which manifests in obsessive thoughts and behaviour, like constant washing of hands, or compulsive bathing). Children also have reading and writing problems, which can be directly traced to emotional stress.
Ms Velayudhan starts the course with dance, involving body movements and beats, showing how it relates to the body. "I also asked them to express themselves through Abhinaya. And even through this they expressed their domestic dilemmas and emotional conflicts", says Ms Velayudhan.
Ms Latha Raj taught body movements. "Some children do not have `tala' but we compelled them to participate in dances, disregarding their ignorance of `tala' and they enjoyed it. It is interaction that matters", Ms Velayudhan points out. The children are given both Indian and pop music to which they swing according to their taste and later they synchronised. After such a dance lesson the drawings of the children showed a decidedly happy feel, more clarity even about their own family. Showing that something within was melting and vanishing through the painted lines. The results are remarkable.
One child was so lazy and indifferent and she refused to go school. After the art therapy her emotional block dissolved and she began to draw her as going to school. Which she finally did, according to Ms Velayudhan. Another child drew herself as a rabbit in all her drawings, and that too in fading black lines. In her next drawing she depicted herself as a bird, a symptom that she did not like to accept responsibility. But when the camp was about to conclude the rabbit transformed into a human being. The girl started studying her lessons and now she is an avid student.
According to Ms Velayudhan it is the depressed children who draw colourless pictures. "Art therapy achieves dramatic changes in children. One does not have to be talented in art, they only need to draw what they feel and it can be interpreted and help can be given."
What came as a revelation to Ms Velayudhan herself was the self-portrait that the children drew at the end of the fourth day. "I told them to look into a mirror and draw themselves. I could see them examining their own faces, identifying their eyes, their eyebrows, and their noses. And gaining confidence as they drew.
As a follow-up Ms Velayudhan brought in the parents, helping them to improve their parenting skill... a skill which many parents lack, though they refuse to acknowledge it. They were also shown how their own offspring view them. What the lessons tragically revealed that even the most dutiful parents did not have time to spare for their children, did not have patience with them or appreciate them enough to give them emotional security. "We were not deciding for them, we were only facilitating change ", says Ms Velayudhan.
Art therapy is non-existent in Kerala as yet. NIMHANS in Bangalore has art therapy. Ms Velayudhan now plans to take her PhD in art therapy, so that she can help a lot of children.
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