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  • Writer's picturePSOT

The Art of Healing

About 1 in 5 U.S. adults, nearly 20% of the population, experiences a mental illness in a given year. Mental illness is more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease, and it does not discriminate, no matter your age, race or cultural background. However, research suggests asylum seekers are five times more likely to have mental health needs than the general population.

Although there is no exact cause to point to, mental illnesses is genetic, biological, and can arise from psychological trauma and environmental stressors. Our survivors carry a large weight of this due to pre- and post-migration trauma: from the abuses they suffer in their home country, the difficult (sometime dangerous) journey to find safety, to the stressful asylum proceedings that await. Every step in an asylum seeker or refugee’s journey can negatively affect their mental health. At PSOT, we give clients a comprehensive approach to their mental health care, that addresses these factors and the long road to overcoming trauma. This care includes individual, group and family therapy, psychiatric treatment and - for the past 7 years - the practice of Art Therapy.

The American Art Therapy Association defines and describes Art Therapy as:

“an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship. Art therapy, facilitated by a professional art therapist, effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change."

Since 2012, The Art Therapy Project in NYC has been leading bi-weekly art therapy groups with board certified, clinically licensed art therapists to treat our trauma survivors through the universal language of art. Helping our care teams bridge more than just language barriers.

“There might not be words to describe a feeling or an experience,” says Lindsay Lederman MPS, ATR-BC, LCAT, ATCS and Clinical Director of The Art Therapy Project. “There’s more freedom to work through an issue using art,” because words don’t always fit. And just the practice of making art connects a patient to parts of the brain that can help regulate the nervous system, reduce stress and have other positive effects similar to cognitive behavioral therapy.

Art Therapy provides survivors a safe creative space to work on their goals and address their needs, and in doing so, provides a tangible product to reflect upon. “When we want to review how far people have come, or where people may be stuck, we have the ability to look back at a piece of art,” says Lederman. “It’s a concrete example of a person's work to see what has changed and where treatment has been going.” When treating a mental illness and dealing with trauma, being able to examine an external object can be invaluable. This practice has helped countless PSOT clients communicate their trauma and assists in their overall mental health care.

"The Art Therapy Project is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with PSOT," says Martha Dorn, Executive Director, The Art Therapy Project. "Given what PSOT clients have been through, as well as the language barrier, art therapy is the perfect vehicle to help them lower their anxiety and stress while also providing a means of expressing and communicating their experiences and needs."

The Art Therapy project is dedicated to helping trauma survivors through the creative process and host 35 different groups across the city. In addition to PSOT survivors, they host groups for veterans, the LGBTQ community, sexual abuse survivors and more.

You can learn more and support The Art Therapy Project by visiting,

And you can make a difference in the mental health care of torture survivors in NYC by donating to PSOT today.

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