The British Association of Art Therapists /American Art Therapist Association (BAAT?AATA)
International Research Conference
In July 2019 I was privileged to present with my supervisee student at the International Art Therapy Inaugural Conference, in London, our work from Singapore. The conference was indeed an opportunity to meet art therapists from all over the globe. The cultural aspect of the event created a special atmosphere of reflections, inspiring new ways of thinking.
We have presented our work about live-in foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Singapore, who are an essential part of the economy, but are socially marginalized as outsiders. In a reality of the rapidly ageing and low fertility Singaporean society, families usually hire foreign domestic workers. The FDWs population is doubly at risk to experience poor mental health and emotional stress. Social stigmatization, harsh workplace practices and restrictions on the workers’ freedom are some of the problems and issues faced by migrant domestic workers globally. Aspects of coping, acculturation, and psychological adaptation among migrants are some of the challenges influencing the FDW’s wellbeing. Multi-leveled social justice issues permeate migration dynamics and challenge advocates and policymakers to rethink social justice in a transnational age
About The Workshop
Our innovative art therapy programs suggested developing a space for migrants in a learning community to explore ways for improving well-being, shift in roles and identity of this marginalized community. Following social action art therapy approach, the programs emphasized a collaborative process of artmaking as a vehicle by which communities may understand their realities, identify their needs and strengths, and transform their lives in ways that contribute to the individual participant and to the collective well-being and social justice.
The innovative art therapy programs provided opportunity—for both therapist and clients—to understand the worldview of the FDWs community, while trying to meet in the world of their images. The programs highlights the value of a non-verbal communication within the domestic migrant community, who learn from each other to solve real-life problems, empower each other, and make meaning to their roles and identities.
The participants in the art therapy innovative programs reported the positive impact of their experience not only on their well-being but also in creating a discipline for self-expression, empowerment and mutual support within the community of FDWs. The artworks reflected issues of longing for their home country and family members, a high ability to use the art materials creatively, transforming their communication barriers into a sense of strength and an opportunity to connect with each other in a safe space.
Conclusion of conference
Research in Art Therapy is essential for developing awareness through the impact of art making and a need for more research. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to attend this conference in London with my supervisee and for us to talk about FWD in Singapore. I look forward to the next conference!