Volunteering Endeavors – Student Reflection

Graduate Life in Haifa

The NAMAL Project with ICTP

Written by Kirstie Nel, international student in the Art Therapy Master’s program at the University of Haifa International School, Class of 2015-2016. 

Photo Nov 17 4 18 40 PM Israeli and International Art Therapy students

As part of my volunteering obligations, for a scholarship I received from the University of Haifa, I was asked to raise funds for any of the projects run by Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma (ICTP). The fundraising project, although a daunting task, is an ideal investment of my time and energy, as I get to know and get involved with a non-profit organisation as well as gain valuable experience, personally and professionally. With the involvement and support of Elisheva Ackerson my MA Art Therapy program coordinator, we hope to create meaningful engagement with the project and assist it by having a successful fundraising event or events.

As I searched the ICTP website, I stumbled across…

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When Time Stood Still- A Survivor’s Story by Prof. Rachel Lev-Wiesel

There is little written information, even today, that combines a survivor’s personal detailed story in conjunction with professional knowledge and insights. When writing our book, this was the objective of our work; it was meant to be used as a tool for healing child sexual abuse survivors. I worked intensively with Ziv Koren, a survivor, who was willing to share her story, and the outcome of the process we went through amazed even me.

Ziv, a practicing social worker, the youngest daughter in her family, was sexually abused by her uncle between the ages of 6-16. Ziv’s uncle, who was a teacher, was very much loved and admired by the family, especially by her mother. The abuse was accompanied by violence, yet sometimes, especially in public, her uncle treated her in a loving manner. As a result, he was perceived by her to be her only social resource; the only person she felt attached to. It was clear to her that she should keep this secret, although she often wondered whether her mother was aware of the relationship.

At the age of 36, Ziv had already completed 6 years of therapy. However, she felt that within that therapy, she did not address the abuse itself, nor did she feel like she had processed what had occurred. Because of this, Ziv contacted me for help. Ziv was interested in writing and publishing her autobiography in order to process what she had experienced.

She brought a lot of written material to our first meeting; the written pages were incoherent. I asked her if she would be willing to draw. During her adult life, Ziv had never drawn; however, she was willing to try whatever it would take to heal. She wanted to share her story in order to inspire other survivors to stop living under the shadow of their trauma. This was the start of the therapeutic dialogue between us.

She sent her paintings and drawings via email and brought them to our in-person sessions. Through emails and in person sessions, Ziv and I created an intensive dialogue that lasted for days. I asked her questions in relation to the themes within the paintings and she developed narratives. Through the process of painting, we discovered hidden messages and symbols that helped Ziv cope with her experiences. Within two months, she moved from a state of dissociation to a position where she could confront the horrors that she faced as a child. She tackled the range of emotions she felt towards her perpetrator: from love and admiration to fear; from longing to feelings of revenge for his desertion (at the age 16). She slowly began to accept the fragmentations of her inner self; the wants and needs of her inner child and the wants and needs of her adult self.

After two months of work, Ziv was ready to see her perpetrator, whom she had not seen for 20 years, and initiated a meeting. In the meeting she finally managed to see him as he really is – an adult who hurt and used a young, susceptible, lonely girl.

The impact of the art therapy on healing the severe symptoms of her trauma was miraculous. The dissociative coping mechanisms became more controlled, the addiction to pornography and S&M sexual relationships terminated. She began to sleep for longer hours with her eyelids closed (previously she slept with her eyes open and woke every hour). She began taking care of her body in terms of nutrition, hygiene and appearance.

The use of drawings helped her perceive herself as an observer and as a participator, to overcome dissociation and to integrate her physical, emotional, and cognitive self into one whole human being. Throughout our time together, Ziv drew about 60 drawings.

From a professional point of view, this process, which was conducted continuously and intensively, was necessary to overcome the real and imaginary confinements of survivors of sexual abuse. The continuous dialogue was found to be crucial to bypass dissociation and to enable the integration between body and mind. For professionals, the meaning of time as perceived by the survivor is of outmost importance in relation to posttraumatic growth.

Our book, When Time Stood Still, is presenting the entire process that Ziv went through. Hopefully, this book will help professionals to better understand the uniqueness of child sexual abuse, the resulting trauma, and the healing process. Through Ziv’s persistence, we uncovered a unique tool for therapists to help victims break free from the chains of trauma.

The book can be purchased at Amazon in Paperback, Kindle, or E-Book.

Prof. Rachel Lev-Wiesel is a professor and the former director of the Graduate School of Creative Arts Therapies. She is a clinical social worker, supervisor, and licensed family therapist, who specializes in child and family sexual abuse. Her main research areas focus on sexual abuse, childhood sexual abuse, the use of drawings for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, long term effects of the Holocaust, and intergenerational transmission of trauma, on which she has published more than 120 scientific articles and chapters as well as 7 books.

Bridge Painting, Art Therapy Practice & Technique by Yiangos

When I painted the bridge I was sometimes close to the painting and sometimes far away from it (observing). I used a big easel for my painting.

My painting is symmetrical. A lot of blue/cool colors in the painting. The viewpoint of the person looking at the bridge is from a distance, at eye level.

Going from left to right (from Cyprus to Canada for my internship year). Under the bridge is water. The water has fish and many waves but the bridge seems to be holding on tight and it is well grounded on both sides. I am still in the beginning of the journey. Emphasis is put on the bridge itself mostly, but there are things going on everywhere. The bridge is made of steel. It is a truss bridge that I am familiar with from Montreal.

I am happy that I got activity on all directions of the bridge but it is also overwhelming.

I can see some differences from a similar exercise I did 3 years ago in an introduction to art therapy class at Columbus College of Art & Design in 2011


Workshop: The Outsider: Art Therapy, Race, and Culture by Judith Siano, Clinical Supervisor

 In this high place
it is as simple as this,
leave everything you know behind.

“Step toward the cold surface,
say the old prayer of rough love
and open both arms.” – David Whyte

This workshop deals with multi-culturalism, immigration, the refugee or the stranger, and the special in the group (family, school, tribe, country…).

The method was developed to sharpen the awareness of tension within a group (due to prejudice and intolerance towards the “other”) and to cope with power struggle.

Participants will be invited to work with plasticine in four to six subgroups.

Group dynamics will be stimulated and simulated, with a factor of surprise, or is it a factor of frustration?


  1. Creating something three-dimensional together, by squeezing, pinching, poking the material, adding and connecting parts or cutting away excess to reveal a desired form is a non-verbal, non threatening sensory experience.
  2. Participants will learn a method which helps in an easy way to be aware of issues of group dynamics, family constellation and different roles. Is there a leader?
  3. Due to a therapeutic intervention unexpected changes affecting everyone in any group will be experienced and processed.
  4. A discussion, first within the subgroups, followed by a closure in the big group should lead to a deeper understanding, facilitating empathy and compassion towards the outsider.
  5. Applicable in any groups (from schoolchildren to the elderly).

Length of time for the workshop: 2,5 to 3 hours.

Number of participants: 20 – 25.

Art supplies: Plasticine in 4 – 6 different colors (depends on number of participants, 4-5 people per sub-group).

For each sub group, about 1 kilo of plasticine is needed.

The colors: White, black, yellow, red, blue and green.

(The colors, besides white and black can vary in shades like red,

pink, dark red…, blue, ultramarine, turquoise, prussian blue…)

                       Work on 4 – 6 tables (one for each group).

30.11.14 436 30.11.14 437 30.11.14 410 30.11.14 412 30.11.14 414 30.11.14 417 30.11.14 425 30.11.14 429

Professional bio:
Judith Siano, M.A.
is a registered Art Therapist and supervisor. She works as a lecturer and supervisor at the training program for Art Therapists and clinical supervisors at the Haifa University and serves as an advisor for therapeutic interventions in boarding schools for street children and youth. She is the head of the ethic committee at the Israeli Association of Creative and Expressive Therapies and has published several papers about ethics, trauma and Art Therapy.

Betensky, M. (1995). What do you see? Phenomenology of therapeutic art expression. London & Bristol: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Dokter,D. (Ed.). (1998). Art therapists, refugees and migrants: Reaching across borders. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Dwairy, M.A. (1998). Cross-Cultural Counseling. The Arab-Palestinian Case. New York London: The Haworth Press.

Campbell J, Liebmann M, Brooks F, Jones J. and Ward C.(eds) (1999). Art Therapy, Race and Culture. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Hays, P.A.(2008). Addressing Cultural Complexities in Practice, Second Edition. Assessment, Diagnosis, and Therapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Hays, P.A.(2008). Connecting Across Cultures. The Helper’s Toolkit. Los Angeles: Sage.

Henley D. (2002). Clayworks in Art Therapy. Plying in the Sacred Circle. London & Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Hiscox A.R. and Calisch A.C. ed. (1998). Tapestry of Cultural Issues in Art Therapy. London & Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Howie, P., Prasad, S., and Kristel, J. Editors (2013). Using Art Therapy with Diverse Populations. Crossing Cultures and Abilities. London & Philadelphia: London & Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Kaplan F.(ed.)(2006). Art Therapy and Social Action. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Schaverien J. (1987).The scapegoat and the talisman: transference in art therapy. In: Images of Art Therapy. London and New York: Tavistock/Routledge.