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What is family art therapy, how do family problems differ in different countries and what is needed in order to create your own art therapy system in Russia.
For a week now, art therapy specialists from the United States have been working in orphanage # 4 in the city of Pavlovsk near St. Petersburg. Three professors and 18 students from Long Island University (New York) explain and show what art therapy is and how it can help children with disabilities. From New York, they brought special tools, blanks and paints, which they promise to leave to employees of orphanages for further practice..
Children are divided into mini-groups of 4-6 people. An orphanage teacher, 2-3 art therapists, an interpreter and an operator, who will then leave video lessons, work with each group and study at the same time..
This extraordinary group is led by Christine Ker, Ph.D., a leading American specialist and expert in the field of family art therapy, who has been working in this field for 30 years. Christine Coehr teaches at universities, writes articles and books, and nurtures followers around the world.
American psychologists came to Russia together with the International Social Action Program. This is a program in which doctors and other professionals gather themselves and travel with humanitarian and social assistance to different countries..
“We do this every year,” Christine Kerr told the Voice of America Russian Service. – We have already been to Brazil, to Nicaragua, but this is the first time we have arrived in Russia ”.
Ker herself, leaving the working group in St. Petersburg, went to Moscow, where she gave a lecture at the Faculty of Philosophy of Moscow State University, and also organized master classes: family art therapy for everyone.
“There is no language barrier in art, it is accessible and understandable to everyone,” Ker explained to the Voice of America. – Although family problems certainly have their own cultural boundaries. Despite the seeming universality of family problems, you always need to keep in mind where this happens. “.
Nevertheless, despite the existing “geography” of family problems, families all over the world are faced with some kind of troubles more and more often:
“Parental divorce is now the biggest problem,” Ker began to list. – Drugs – both children and parents take them. Wherever you go, you can meet the family consequences of financial problems, debts, loans. More and more often parents come to me who work so hard that they almost never go home and do not see their children..
There is a constant attention syndrome in children, problems at school…. A special moment is the conflict that arises when a grandmother or grandfather moves to live back to their children, to their family. This often disrupts the established family system. It’s just that in some countries this is an expected, normal process. But in the USA – no! True, I do not know how things stand with this in Russia “.
“Although, as before, most often parents come to me who quarrel over how they should raise their children. Everyone has a different understanding of freedom and intimacy, here their experience with their parents is included, and everything gets confused, “the doctor summed up with a laugh..
How artistic expression can help the family?
At her lectures in Moscow, Christine Ker spoke about the basics of family art therapy.
“The main thing is that all family members are involved in the therapy,” Ker said. – Any desired and undesirable behavior of family members is associated with the actions of everyone else. The individuality of each is much less important in this system than we used to think “.
For Ker, a family is a system that consists of several microsystems and levels connected with each other. And this system is constantly evolving, evolving and adapting to changing external circumstances..
Observations of this system begin as soon as the family visits the therapist. During the session, they will paint together and separately, make collages, sculpt from clay, make sculptures. “The therapist looks from the very beginning: who and how begins to draw, who makes the first wave of the pencil, whose advice is taken into account and whose advice is not, how much everyone is included in the process. This, at times, can say more than the drawing itself “, – explained Ker to students.
“This creativity expresses on paper and relieves tension, helps to detect and, most importantly, to start discussing the conflict,” Ker said. There are many techniques. There is a customary “draw your family on a white sheet”. You can draw a self-portrait, depict a family on a sheet with a outlined circle.
Family members can paint themselves on the same sheet of paper using different colors. This amazingly simple allows you to see how family members perceive their role, their place in the system, how they respect or disrespect each other’s personal space, and much more..
“My favorite assignment is to paint a house or make a collage of a house from photographs,” Ker said. “It is always very important for adults to see how children really perceive and feel at home.”.
After an hour of lectures, Christine Ker suddenly turned off the presentation: “Let’s better look at examples,” she said, and for the next hour she showed the work of children and adults from her practice. “Is it really possible that if I draw myself and my family, all my problems and conflicts will also be obvious from the outside?”, Elena, a student of the Faculty of Philosophy of Moscow State University, asked in surprise after the lecture..
What is art therapy in Russia?
Among the members of the American Art Therapy Association is the Russian practicing therapist Anna She. A former student of Christine Ker, Anna has worked in international humanitarian missions. And after returning to Moscow, she opened the first art therapy studio in Russia. However, Anna is critical of the Christine Coeur school, arguing that Russia needs its own practice..
“I received a Full Bright grant and was sent to study at the Long Island Institute for clinical art therapy. I already studied in the postgraduate study of the Faculty of Philosophy of Moscow State University, at the Department of Aesthetics, and began writing a dissertation on the aesthetic analysis of the practice of art therapy, ”Anna told the Voice of America. – I worked with difficult teenagers, with teenagers with alcohol and drug addiction.
It was, let’s say, the field use of creative practices, more intuitive. We have yet to make a system out of all this “.
“With our studio we travel around the cities of Russia. We are faced with the fact that the idea of what art therapy is very vague, she added. – Many people think that this is either clinical work with diagnosed patients, or just entertainment for children. And this is neither one nor the other “.
“It also became clear that it would not be possible to take and deploy the American or European experience in Russia so easily. We need to develop an authentic system.
But to do this, you need to understand the context. Christine Ker is the first swallow of international experience that we can consider and understand how we can use this system in our country, how it can be adapted and whether it is worth doing, ”explains Anna. – Russia has a completely different cultural situation. What I see in working with my clients, what requests clients come with, and with what questions they do not come to art therapy support, is very different from what I saw in the USA “.