Finding places and spaces for recognition: applied art therapy training and practice in the mitigation against unthinking acts of violence

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Dr. Hayley Berman


This paper explores the potentialities of Community Art Counselling techniques and processes in South Africa and how not only do these offer therapeutic spaces for traumatised communities, but can also serve as interfaces between psychoanalytically-informed practice, active citizenship and participatory action research opportunities. Case examples are drawn on in order to elucidate the multifariousness of Community Art Counselling at both a national as well as an individual level. Methods include photography, video, advocacy programmes, social dreaming and image-making.

These examples, in particular an intervention in response to xenophobic attacks in the country, address intergenerational and intercultural transmission of trauma; the necessary adaptation of the traditional psychoanalytic frame of time, setting and disclosure; and the mitigation of ‘otherness’.

Importantly, the author suggests that whilst reaction to continuous trauma, may include denial and shutting down, action can often be a first response. 

She suggests that art therapy as a modality offers an opportunity for a thinking action, which is more likely to be curative and sustainable – as opposed to unthinking action, which is the opposite.

Keywords: Visual research, trauma, Social dreaming, Xenophobia. 

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