Reimagining a Safe-Self in Times of Confinement
Updated: Mar 16
Art for Peace, a non-profit organization, offers short-term art therapy mandates for refugees and special needs persons, focusing on body-oriented psychotherapies combining dance therapy, physical theater, music therapy, and bodywork via breath work, relaxation, and mindfulness. In 2019, two of the art for peace art therapist offered ten, ninety-minute art therapy sessions with a group of 12 refugee women in Geneva, with the help of Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first seven sessions were held in a classroom where they practiced weekly rituals designed to raise body awareness and knowledge with a psycho-educative approach. However, due to the pandemic, they had to shift to an online format, which generated some apprehensions from participants who feared technology failures or losing their internet connections.
The authors also had to adapt their sensory deprivation techniques and re-imagine a new way to connect to the body and the world without losing a sense of safe-self.
The women they worked with had all suffered from a traumatic past on some level, which could affect their body through postures, movements, ways of speaking, emotional regulation capacities, painful physical symptoms, and disembodiment consequence.
The EXIT program seeks to process and integrate these physical and emotional blockages, in order to release what they hold and rebuild the connection between the body and psyche. As they continued with the online workshop and application of EXIT principles, they realized that the crisis may have reactivated past wounds and traumatic life events in some of the women, while others showed signs of resilience and hope.
Despite the challenges, the women reported feeling positive and grateful for the sessions, which helped them to connect with others, build relationships, and process their emotions. The authors also found that the online format allowed for more flexibility and accessibility for participants, who could join the sessions from the comfort of their own homes.
The participants conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged them to adapt and be creative in their approach, but it has also highlighted the importance of art therapy and mental health support for vulnerable populations, especially during times of crisis.
“During confinement, the Zoom session gave me a new lease of life. Finally, the sessions helped me to be more positive, and to see the good sides of life, the bright times, and reject the dark times. Thank you Agnès and Marga” -Magda from Syria, 69 years old.
“During the coronavirus, simply I accepted the reality and I try to learn about it and to do what must be done. I did some of art, try to learning a little language, watching the series, films” Fazel from Iran, 40 years old.
“With the Corona and the confinement it didn't help. The fear of the disease made me relive my past and with the help of Agnes and Marga they did sessions on the internet to continue what they started and helped us to come out. It was a new and interesting experience for me and it helped me to live and discover abilities that I had and to share that.”
-Mouna from Syria, 62 years old.