Monday, July 29, 2013

Drawing Out the Darkness: Art Therapy in Israel

One of Artists 4 Israel's most exciting new projects is A4I CARES, an art kit put together specifically to help children from Israel's war-torn areas cope with the trauma and stress of their lives. The kits have been assembled by a team of artists, mental health professionals, emergency service workers, and other according to the ideas presented by the growing field of art therapy. Recognized by Israel's Ministry of Health as a para-medical profession in 1998, art therapy has the unique potential to raise self-esteem, encourage insight, reduce stress and otherwise improve the quality of life for everyone from children to adults. For more information on A4I CARES, please contact

What is Art Therapy?
Unlike traditional talk therapy or medication, art therapy is available to everyone: old or young, rich or poor. It harnesses the healing power of the artistic process allowing people to express otherwise unspeakable thoughts and to see themselves as creative, worthwhile human beings (in a sense, this is similar to the process of changing the public perception of Israel through art). This can be done with a pencil and paper, although the A4I CARES kits contain a range of unique supplies to foster emotional expression, such as modeling clay and bracelet-making materials. All kinds of art fall under the heading of art therapy, and the Israeli Association of Creative and Expressive Therapies recognizes six: visual and plastic art, music, movement and dance, drama, psychodrama, and creative writing. In more structured settings, art therapy classes also allow participants to connect to each other in a community setting, giving them the confidence and trust needed to share their work. Any given individual's skills isn't the point, the healing process is.

Art and Children
Children are natural artists, unhindered by expectation of the inner critic which appears in adults. Giving them the chance to explore their creativity as a therapeutic tool can be deeply healing, since most feel more comfortable expressing themselves through art rather than by trying to articulate feelings they may not be able to find words for. Going through trauma and living in a rocket-targeted area can also play havoc with their self-esteem, making art's confidence-building potential particularly important in improving their lives. Children in more stable situations can also benefit from art therapy, whether structured or unstructured. In fact, a 2009 study at the University of Haifa found that children of drug addicts were better able to cope with their lives when given the chance to express themselves through drawing, rather than traditional talk therapy. It's an exciting insight into the role art can play in helping children who have been subject to abuse and pain.

Art and Addiction
The children of addicts aren't the only ones whose lives can be changed through art. Art therapy for addiction has been shown to help ease rehabilitation, while also working to prevent relapse at a later date, and has been quickly picked by Israeli rehabilitation centers. There are approximately 25,000 people struggling with addiction in Israel, giving art therapy the potential to change lives, families, and communities. Making art throughout their time in recovery is a way for people to clarify who they really are beyond their addictions, moving through shame and fear to a place where they can better understand themselves and others. This can be particularly important for "social addictions" which, by their nature, involve how an individual relates to other people. The treatment of sexual addiction, for example, is still in its infancy in terms of understanding what works best. However, it is clear that by allowing people to access their own creative instincts, they can understand themselves on a deeper level and learn new ways of understanding and communicating with other people.

What You Can Do
The A4I CARES kit currently cost $150 to cover the supplies, but additional support would allow Artists 4 Israel to buy in bulk and lower the cost of bringing this much needed gift to the children who need it. It's also possible to harness the power of art in your life and community - some local centers host arts and crafts events for lower-income children, and these are often in need of volunteers to help out. Of course, you can also take art therapy's healing strength to heart and use it in your own life, simply by picking up some paint and paper.

A wonderful guest post by Missi Toms


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  2. This is informative blog that you can share with us. In this blog pictures and Israeli Art done was superb.