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Art Therapy Goes Global and Digital

Collaborating with St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, India, and Israeli community organizations, Beit Berl's Art Therapy Department creates models for long-distance support.

Community involvement is a key value of the Art Therapy Department at Beit Berl's Faculty of Arts-HaMidrasha, and this is especially true during the current global health crisis. Thanks to the pioneering research taking place in the Department, innovative hands-on techniques succeed in reaching people in need.

Important research led by Dr. Ofira Honig, head of both the Art Therapy Department and its Master's program in Art Psychotherapy, examined a digital cross-cultural art-based intervention model used during the first lockdown (Honig, Chakrabarti, Mehta Kadam, & Ram-Vlasov, in progress). A collaboration between art therapy programs at Beit Berl College and St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, India, the study is based on online guided art therapy using different materials and media. Twenty-six students took part, 13 from Israel and 13 from India. They reported that guided art followed by semi-structured reflection contributes to self-expression, venting emotions, self-realization and gaining new perspective on the situation. Some participants integrated materials such as face masks and disposable gloves into their artwork, to express complex feelings on social distancing.

Another study, conducted in Israel after the first six-week lockdown, examined the effectiveness of art therapy in raising the quality of life of elderly women during the pandemic (Shamri-Zeevi & Ram-Vlasov, in progress). The study found that creating art enables the processing of difficult and/or conflicting emotions, including anxiety about death and loneliness, which found expression in the art.

Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Honig has also continued to work remotely with welfare specialists in Nepal – an initiative she has maintained for several years in the wake of the deadly 2015 avalanche disaster. She travelled to Nepal then to train local representatives in art therapy techniques and has continued to work with them ever since, focusing on orphaned adolescents. "I am sharing the results of the research we are conducting on the effectiveness of long-distance art therapy, and, as a result, helping them to cope with events of national trauma."

In addition to these large-scale projects, the Art Therapy Department has been regularly offering special webinars and online events that address issues related to the current pandemic.

The Master's program in Art Psychotherapy (M.A.A.T.) at Beit Berl's HaMidrasha-Faculty of Arts is the only program in Israel where students learn art psychotherapy through the language of art therapy in a dynamic, experiential studio setting. 

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