Olena Voznesenska

Ph. D. (Social Science, Psychology),

Senior staff scientist in Institute of Social and Political Psychology,

National Academy of pedagogical sciences,

member of the board of National Psychological Association (member of the EFPA),

President of Ukrainian Art Therapy Association (Kyiv).



Dear Colleagues, I am glad to welcome everyone!

First, I would like to thank deeply the organizers of the conference, Mr. Yan, for the offer and possibility to share the works of Ukrainian art-therapists.

As you all know, Ukraine is suffering from destructive war. Ukrainians are all extremely grateful to Polish people for your enormous help. You, like no one else, understand our pain. 

Slide 1. Collective trauma 

War is always a collective trauma, the trauma of the entire society, experiences that are not perceived as individual, but as mass once. These experiences are shared with a large number of people. A traumatic event affects the whole society.

In the information society, trauma spreads with the help of various media, is represented through mass media, social networks, and speeches of public figures. A constant flow of negative news stories that cause violent emotions can lead not only to the passivity of the individual, but also to the development of depressive states and psychosomatic diseases. The consequences of such trauma are so devastating that they destabilize the entire social system and affect all citizens and communities.

Slide 2. Media traumatization: new threats of the informative age

So, all of us, all of Europe, are subject to media traumatism. We are traumatized by interaction with the information space. This is a completely new type of psychotrauma that has appeared in the information society. Media trauma is a psychological trauma that occurs under the influence of media tools, media messages, and media content. Our war is "direct ester" and we all suffer from the trauma of "being the witness". A specific feature of media trauma is the use of the media as a source or means of traumatization.

Media trauma, like any other type of mental trauma, is associated with strong emotional experiences of a person. The event does not happen directly to a person, but a person perceiving it with the help of media - the Internet, TV, etc. - feels the same as if he were inside the event.

How can art therapy help to cope with this? In this message, we will try to briefly cover the newest type of art therapy - media art therapy.

Slide 3. Media art-therapy is an opportunity for self-expression through media creativity and an effective strategy for maintaining mental health, preventing media injuries and strengthening media immunity.

Media art-therapy is a combination of therapy, art and the latest information technologies.

The name of the method "media art-therapy" consists of three words that together create one new thing:

media are channels, tools and devices of a technological nature for recording, saving and transmitting information. In the information world, it is the exchange of information that is a necessary component of society's life. Media technologies are a mediator of human activity in general, a means of communication, a condition of human activity;

art – a form of awareness and reflection of reality in the form of specific sensual artistic images in accordance with certain aesthetic ideals. Art is one of the means of knowing the world, and, including, a means of education - political, moral, artistic;

therapy – the process of removing or eliminating the manifestations of any disease, normalization of disturbed life processes, recovery, restoration of health.

The development of media art-therapy is a natural component of the postmodern path of art therapy development. The use of art therapy technologies allows to promote the "exit" of media consumers from the roles of "passive consumers". Media art-therapy creates an environment that helps to express accumulated feelings, including from interaction with the media, thus helps to prevent media traumatism and expand the level of personal media culture.

Slide 4. Media creativity

Therefore, media art-therapy needs modern communication systems to treat the individual within the artistic space and with the help of artistic tools. The development of art therapy is possible due to the development of an information culture that is open, diverse, multicultural, virtual, uncertain and globalized. 

Media creation is a mass phenomenon: it includes photos or videos created by a smartphone, and text posts on social networks, blogging, and media art, and much more. And an important aspect of media creation is the therapeutic one. Through spontaneous creativity, healing is achieved thanks to the mechanisms of creative self-expression, and, therefore, media creativity is one of the means of preserving mental health and overcoming the effects of psychotraumatization in wartime. The main mechanisms of media art-therapy influence: identification with the hero, empathy, emotional "discharge", change of attitude and behavior, awakening of optimism, distraction and help in overcoming physical and mental suffering.

Slide 5. Advantages of media art-therapy

When using media tools in the therapeutic process, establishing a connection is much easier because of the person's ordinary or even trivial relationship with media technology. Non-verbal communication helps the art therapist or any other person to understand the client better.

The enormous creative potential of modern media tools helps to use media creativity for art therapy. New media devices allow you to create incredible products: photos, videos, collages, or even animated films using just a smartphone. The distribution of self-created content through the Internet provides a person with unlimited opportunities to receive the support of friends and even strangers through "likes". Thanks to Internet technologies, media art-therapy contributes to the expansion of communicative strategies and actions of a person. This allows the specialist to work with those who, for some reason, cannot participate in a traditional art therapy group, to share their experiences and express their own opinions. This contributes to the adaptation and readaptation of a person in the community, creates conditions for social activity, which is a feature of media art in general, and thus forms an active life position of a person. The multimodality of the virtual space allows you to bring your story, your fairy tale to life by creating memes or animations, or simply voice the text using electronic music. After all, not everyone learned to play musical instruments and cannot always use them in their own creativity. But it becomes possible through electronic arts.

Media art-therapy that can pave the way to the prevention and mastery of collective trauma caused or enhanced by the media.

Slide 6. Phototherapy

We will not now dwell on phototherapy, which can be considered as one of the varieties of media art-therapy in a digital version. Photography as a reflection of a certain historical period can become a material for creating works of art. In this way, the task of legitimizing the difficult feelings associated with war, which is an important condition for healing from collective traumas, can be realized. Let's give one example - photo albums of Chernihiv and Kharkiv graduates of 2022.

Slide 7. Kinotherapy in action

I would like to talk in more detail about the creation of animated films with a therapeutic purpose. Creating animation is a tool of media art-therapy. Animation is a form of television art familiar to everyone from childhood. Thanks to the creation of animated films, you can express your feelings related to war. In animation, the desire to go beyond reality is embodied in the search for new forms and techniques for creating a screen image. When a person understands these tools and uses them during the creation of his own animated film, he sympathizes with the characters, "fears" with them and has the opportunity to express his feelings.

Slide 8-9. Photo of the shooting process

In animation, a fundamentally different organization of the production process is used than in video: shooting in separate frames. This expands the limits of experiments and the possibilities of embodying fictional images and allows the use of animation in working with out-of-bounds experiences caused by shock trauma, actual conflicts that affect the entire society. The use of media art-therapy, namely the creation of animated films, provides an opportunity not only to immerse oneself in the world of cinematography, but also to acquire the skills of recognizing the means of media influence, media manipulation, to improve one's media culture, which will allow to counteract media traumatization.

Slide 8-9. Photo of the shooting process

The basis of film art is the principle of montage: when parts of the film are joined together ("gluing" several digital photographs into one file) a content emerges that was not present in any single frame (photo image). Editing as a stage in the creation of an animated film can prevent the disintegration of the personality due to psychological trauma.

As an example of working with war trauma, I want to cite a recent work with teenagers within the framework of the Linoleum Contemporary Animation and Media Art Festival (Festival of contemporary animation and media art) by a group of girls aged 11-16.

The duration of therapeutic work is 4 hours.

The first stage - the preparatory stage - aims to develop an idea, script, direction. At this stage, we structured the process of "birth" of the idea and scenario as follows. We built the plot of the animated film based on the archetypal plot "The Hero's Way" (Erich Neumann).

Children were invited to dream and realize their dreams in an animation project. If your dream was food, what kind of food would it be? What color is your dream? - asked the participants. We considered the dream as a goal, a prize that the hero will receive after overcoming obstacles. 

The next step was to ask the girls to identify their superpower: what superpower would they like to master? What exactly can this superpower overcome? In this way, an obstacle was determined that the protagonist/heroine of the animated film had to overcome, and an anti-hero was created.

For the character of the main hero of the film, we suggested that the girls endow him with their strongest features, his backstory was determined through the characters of the participants of the master class, their life stories of overcoming crises. In this way, the image of the main character of the film was created.

An ordinary Nikon camera and a tripod were used for shooting. The filming site was a table on which a sheet of Whatman was fixed. Lighting is natural. All participants participated in the transformations and movements of the characters in each scene of the film. The film was shot using about 650 frames.

Slide 10. We tried to inspire children to express their dreams in joint media creation and bring them to life in an animated format. And it turned out that Ukrainians now dream of only one thing. The girls who participated in the master class created their own vision of this dream.

People created artificial intelligence that processes metadata, robots work in production, smart houses clean themselves, wash dishes and save light and water... However, one day these creatures of human genius went crazy and began to destroy everything around them and kill peaceful people. How to beat crazy robots? How to stop the destruction? All this can be seen in the animated film "The story of Dana's victory over a crazy robot."

Slide 11. Conclusion

The experience of screen creativity as a social activity reveals to the participants the essential value and importance of media literacy in their lives. This is an opportunity to make one's own contribution to overcoming collective traumatism, the development of society, and reaching a new level of understanding of social media reality. The experience of using media art-therapy (namely, the creation of plasticine cartoons) has proven the ability of the method to overcome the consequences of psychotraumatism, resolve conflicts, and can be used to support peacemaking initiatives by distributing content on the Internet. The development of media creativity is an effective means of developing a creative, self-sufficient and critically thinking personality in the conditions of a rapid increase in the amount of information. A person consciously and actively participates in media communication and media creativity and begins to control his psychological safety.