Using Creative Arts and Play in a School Group for Children from a Refugee Background.

Using Creative Arts and Play in a School Group for Children from a Refugee Background.


Phoenix Centre, Glenorchy, Australia
Emergent content, process and working relationally refer to the ways in which understanding and meaning may develop during art therapy interventions (Lett 2011). Art-making has been shown to assist in the regulation of arousal due to traumatic events (Malchiodi 2015). These concepts are especially relevant to working with children of refugee background who have been referred for trauma counselling and are engaging in group processes of art-making and play therapy. This presentation will examine the content, therapeutic benefits and emergent processes of a creative arts group for year 5 and 6 girls from a refugee background.

The participants were girls from years 5 and 6, of Nepali speaking-Bhutanese ethnicity. They were all members of former refugee families on permanent visas in Australia. Each of the girls were referred by teachers for trauma-related behaviours or academic struggles. Parents gave consent for each child to attend the group. The 1.5 hour sessions were conducted weekly at the school during school term. An interpreter was not used for the group because although the girls spoke with each other in Nepali they each
had sufficient English to understand instructions.

• Multi-Modal – a range of choices including visual arts, textiles, movement, music.
• Collaborative – therapeutic relationship, emergent, child-led and reflective process.
• Play Therapy – limit setting and consistency of objects offered.
• Description – description in-the-moment rather than interpretations of representations.
• Reflection – opportunities to reflect on arousal and develop regulation skills

The methodology was synthesised with the value of working relationally and reflectively to support curiosity, non-judgement and self-regulation. After 16 weeks participants were better able to understand, communicate and regulate emotions. Teachers also reported improvement in classroom attention and behaviours.

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