For confidentiality reasons, all the names used in our beneficiaries' stories have been changed. [*]
Zhao* is a primary-school aged boy from a family of Chinese origin. The teacher describes him as an introvert and quiet child. His interactions with the other children are limited, except for one girl– Carlotta*. His family is very concerned about the Covid situation and Zhao is not allowed to eat lunch at school like other children because he would have to remove his mask. Zhao speaks very little Spanish but can follow the instructions.
The specific objectives of the art therapy sessions for Zhao are to:
- give him the opportunity to express himself through art as his verbal communication is limited
- promote his interactions with other children as he is quite introvert
- offer a safe space where he feels cared for and secured as his family seems especially scared by the Covid situation.
As the sessions progressed Zhao became more and more expressive.
Zhao’s “safe place” for the duck
The first session allowed the art therapist to discover that Zhao is at ease with creative expression, can draw easily and enjoys exploring with art materials. In the second session, the children receive a small rubber duck and a cardboard plate, the directive is to create a safe place for the duck. Zhao created an environment inspired from Halloween while every other child created a safe place. When asked whether his duck feels safe, Zhao says “No…he is alone”.
As the sessions progressed Zhao became more and more expressive. His artworks look outstanding, and this begins to give him more prominence and security. His body movements, gestures and words also became more fluid. He began to interact more with other boys and girls in the group, although he always showed a preference for working with Carlotta. He was more communicative with the art therapist too, asking for help when needed and more open to receiving comments more on his artworks.
Zhao using clay to model “death of COVID"
When invited to create freely with clay, he made a structure that he named “The death of the Covid”. Through this artwork, he expressed his desire to end the virus and, implicitly, to end the anxiety and other difficult feelings associated with Covid. He also drew some pictures in his notebook that may be related to that topic.
Another important session for Zhao was the one on family. This session allowed Zhao to metaphorically portray the highly conflicting atmosphere at home between his father and the other family members.
This information was later shared by the art therapist with Zhao’s teacher. Being informed of such situation at home helps the teacher and the educator team to support the children in the most appropriate way.
Zhao’s ability to create with art strengthened his self-confidence, allowed him to turn to others and improved his interaction with other children.
Through the creative process within the art therapy group, Zhao could express his feelings of loneliness and insecurity, his fear of the Covid and his desire for the situation to evolve, and the highly conflicting situation at home. Externalising these feelings allowed him to feel more at ease in the group. Zhao’s ability to create with art strengthened his self-confidence, allowed him to turn to others and improved his interaction with other children. He was also able to experience being supported by a friend and began to trust the art therapist more. The fact that Zhao uses his Visual Journal at home confirms that the artistic expression is particularly suitable for him and is a promising sign that the development observed during the cycle will be sustainable.