Home Volume 6 Expressive Arts as a Therapeutic Intervention: A Sāmoan Case Study

Expressive Arts as a Therapeutic Intervention: A Sāmoan Case Study


Leua Latai, National University of Sāmoa, and Lex McDonald, Victoria University of Wellington


Expressive arts have been used for therapeutic purposes for centuries and today therapists use the arts to heal a range of recognised psychological problems. Many of the current commentaries and research reports have been concerned with children and adolescents who have been traumatised. However, there is minimal robust research and investigations of the efficacy of impacts and detailed descriptions of programmes are needed. In this case study a Sāmoan ‘art as therapy’ programme is briefly outlined describing the activities developed in a school district. It was designed to assist 177 children traumatised by a tsunami in 2009. Another purpose of this study was to identify the outputs of the expressive arts programme and the students’ responses to the intervention. Using different modes of the arts, the children displayed their sorrow, disbelief and anguish at first and then, as the programme developed, a noticeable improvement in mood was detected. Most of the children indicated that it was a useful programme for them and sought additional similar experiences. The implications, recommendations and limits of the research are discussed.

Keywords: Expressive arts, therapy, trauma, tsunami.

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