S. – Belgium


S. – Belgium

Story 10

S. is a young woman from Iran, at the forefront of her thirties. Together with her husband she fled to Belgium. At the beginning of the sessions she had been in Belgium for 8 months.

S. was regularly present during the Art Therapy sessions.She was silent and withdrawn, but had a special affinity for the art medium. 

She hardly talked about her world of experience. She occasionally shared content e.g. when she was asked about it at the end of the session.

Session after session her confidence grew.

During the last session S. asked for my contact details. I sent her a mail afterwards asking her how she was doing. I would like to contact her again. She has not reacted  further to this.

Session 1: info session / “What's in a name?"

During the first session, I gave a short intro about the project and The Red Pencil. This consisted of introducing myself as an art therapist, and introducing the different participants. I spoke about awareness of safety, speaking openly, and respecting each other. I made it clear that we have a lot of contingencies together and that we don't work with do's or don'ts. These are all important elements to build a solid therapeutic relationship.

I asked S. to create an art piece about the idea of “What's in a name". Try to express who you are in this creation. Try to represent elements of yourself. Feelings, features, characteristics of yourself.

During the creation time I saw that S. working with intense devotion and dedication. Making contact with the materials gave her a warm feeling. She was very grateful to have been invited.

Session 2: info session (same instructions as session 1)

Starting was hard this time. At 9.30, the beginning of the session, nobody was present. I waited until finally some participants came in.  S. was one of them. This session was not a group session. Individuals who came in to see what art therapy is like. The session time was not respected. People arrived too late and some left early. I had to give the same exercise because there were a lot of new people. S. wanted to work further on it. During the sharing time S. told me that creating by coloring felt good. The stress of living in the center fled for a moment. She said the atmosphere with the classical music was relaxing and helpful.

The assignment was as follows, work on creating a silhouette of yourself, showing inside the silhouette of how you feel and outside, how you represent yourself. S. continues her inside – outside artwork. At the beginning she is very positive, she laughs, makes some jokes, but after a while I notice that she is more and more quiet. She stopped creating, her head down in her hands. I sit down next to her and I ask how she is feeling. While creating she began to think about how she felt. She was an architect in Iran, and has been in Belgium for 8 months now, she misses her family. On the outside it seems like she laughs a lot, but she tells me that’s how to survive. She wants to be an architect/designer again.

Sharing isn't easy. The language, understanding each other, but also having the confidence to talk about difficult themes to the group. I think it's a natural, normal evolution.

S. took her piece of work to her room to finish it. She didn’t bring it back to share the content with the others. This task was a difficult task because it brought her into contact with painful memories and feelings.

(Picture is missing).

Session 4: “One perfect moment"

Remember one perfect moment you lived and paint it. What is a perfect moment? When you felt in harmony, complete, in connection with others;
This moment made your day, made you smiled the whole day, it brightens your day.

Painting can be abstract or figurative.

After this explanation, I saw that S. knew immediately what image she wanted to work out. She sat down to work with incredible determination. The image below came out. She did not want to explain her experience of this day.

Session 5 – Group cohesion: Individual working – working together, making connection with each other.

– Create a feeling of cohesion & trust in the group by living an experience of collective artwork
– Find my place in the group

Each member of the group got a piece of paper. The paper was divided into three parts. In the middle part of the paper, the participants had to tell their own story, their own picture. The left part of the paper is to make a connection with your neighbour on your left. The right part of the paper is to make connection with your right neighbor. Try to make connection in the form, with the colors, with the story you see.

S. works with a lot of emotional devotion. She doesn't talk about her intentions. After the session, when everybody left the room she came to speak to me. She showed me her work from last week “my perfect moment". I asked her why she didn't want to share it with the other members, which she responded saying that it was because of her religion. She used to be Muslim but now she is Christian. A lot of people don't know about this switch. She doesn't want them to know about it. It's her secret.

I was happy to see that S., L. and X. made a connection while playing together. They constructed a phantasy play.  S. is welcome in the connected part between X. and L.. They start with very safe materials. Pencils to color with.

I tried to motivate them to use different materials, this was a difficult process.

Session 6 – Where do you come from?

I gave participants the opportunity to tell us more about their home country and the culture.

Create an environment with a map of your home country:

Where do you come from? You all come from different countries and at some point had to leave.

I had brought maps of their home countries and asked them to create an environment with the map. The participants could do whatever they wanted with it. They could make a collage, drawing, or painting. Hereby you can think about things you want to take from your home country. What are you proud of?
And what do you want to leave there?

In the beginning they did not know what to do with the maps. I gave them some suggestions and showed them some examples. The instructions seemed a bit difficult.

This week, S. was on time and we had a real good sharing moment. The different members listened very respectful, they motivate each other to speak. They also helped each other through the language barriers. We made progression with translation.

S. feels ill today. She coughs a lot. She has caught a cold. Her creation is not ready yet. She wants to work further on it next week. Again she gave little information about her inner experience.

Session 7 – the natural elements, water, earth, fire, oxygen?

I presented them with the four natural elements. In which element do you recognize yourself? Which element represents you the most? You can work abstract or figurative.

Today we had a very pleasant working atmosphere. I consciously chose a simple, clear, symbolic assignment. Furthermore, I consciously chose to offer only paint.

S. choose the “water" element.  Inside of herself she often feels like a water fall into a reservoir. The sound of a whirling waterfall.  Sometimes she feels like calm and standing water, other times she feels very whirling. The two extremities. She is overwhelmed by emotions. In this situation she tries to look around her and to the beauty around them.

Session 8 – My story?

In today's session, participants had to choose a picture out of the presented collection and write a story about the picture and make a painting or drawing with it.

Today we were a small group. It is remarkable how strong the group is getting. Members talk in a more experiential way.

S. works out the assignment. She isn't finished yet. During the next session she will continue her task and we'll take time to share about the content. It is very noticeable how she enjoys working in a visual way.

Her work is often not finished in one session. She takes it to her room to finish it, but does not bring it back. When I ask her about it she laughs uncomfortably and changes her subject.

Session 9 – Creating a secure place

I asked the participants to create a safe place where they can fall back in case they face difficult situations.

Shape the clay to create a place where you feel safe, secure and comfortable. Then, make a drawing of your shelter and add an environment around it.

There was a relaxed atmosphere.

Clay appeared to be a material that reminded a lot of the participants of their childhood. They didn't know the materials (paint, pencils, ..) we were using, but were very familiar with clay.

When I explaining the assignment, S. immediately thought of a fish. The fish as a symbol of the Protestant church. S. sees the church as a place of rest. She describes the Iranian church as a beautiful church.  She feels very happy and safe there. She feels like she is in the clouds in the Protestant church.

Session 10: three main colours

S was absent during this session.

Session 11 – Past, present, future

She had to attend to other important appointments. She was expected for the interview. An important moment that is decisive in order to obtain a residence permit.

Session 12: Evaluation: what you take with you and what do you leave behind? 

In this session, I told them to think about the last period and consider for themselves what they wanted to leave behind and what they wanted to take with them. Divide the sheet of paper into two equally sized halves. On one half a large circle is drawn. This represents the top view of a trash can. On the other half, a large square with a handle is drawn. This suggests a bag. Use drawing and painting materials in the trash to create an image of what you want to leave behind. Make an image in the bag of what you want to take with you.

Exhibition time
– Give back art works to participants
– Ritual to say goodbye and thank you

Then we had a little exhibition with all the colleagues of the center, where we ate and drank.

I foresaw a final assignment. We worked it out first. Fons had invited all the colleagues for the exhibition at 11.00u. There was a large board on wheels on which we could attach the different pieces of art work. The participants were really proud. They were immediately prepared to hang their art work. Gradually it was 11.00u. We no longer had time to discuss the matter after that but this was amply compensated for by the arrival of the staff from the center. I think they were certainly with 15 people. Several questions were asked. Way of working could be explained.  Participants were really positively surprised…..all this for them. At the end we thanked each participant.  This by personally handing them a box of chocolate. “Merci".  For those who wanted the workpieces were still neatly packed.

At the beginning of the sessions, S. was in a quiet and withdrawn state. I tried to question her several times, but she did not really accept my proposal. At the end of the session she asked me to send her the details of the website. She did not provide any further explanation.