Art for expression and healing

Art Therapy at the core of Phare Ponleu Selpak

Art for expression and healing

By Emily Martin

Sometimes words are not enough to describe what you are feeling inside. Often, words cannot describe the inner-workings of ones mind. For many, a way to express these things that are so hard to communicate… is through art.

Phare Ponleu Selpak was founded on this concept. 8 young Cambodians who had witnessed and experienced atrocities far beyond most of our imaginations received art therapy in refugee camps along the Thailand border in the late 70’s.

The art helped these children express themselves and heal their trauma in a way nothing else could.

Art therapy has become more and more popular as a healing tool for people living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other hidden injuries of war.

Researchers have found that the old saying, “a picture can speak a thousand words” is very true in expressive arts therapy. In order to heal, patients need to express their emotions, work through them, and regain a positive focus. Studies have shown that some patients with PTSD can find a way to healing by expressing themselves through art.

This powerful photo series, published by National Geographic magazine, focuses on art created by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of their therapy.

These servicemen and women often return home with wounds that can’t be seen on the surface. Brain injuries and PTSD among them.

We wanted to share some of these powerful photographs by Lynn Johnson which were taken of a number service members and their families who are striving to overcome their individual challenges through the power of art.


To see the full project visit:

Read more about the foundations of art therapy which Phare is built on.

Another great project using performing arts therapy as a way to help at-risk youth in America.


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