Seeds of Hope: An art therapist's experience working in international development within culturally diverse contexts in Bolivia

by Marcelle Edwards

This thesis explores the building of trust, hope and a heightened sense of positive self identity with culturally diverse groups of people, encountered while working from 2005 to 2008 as a professional cooperant in international development in the South American country of Bolivia. Participative methods which encourage democratic and horizontal rather than pyramidal power dynamics were used, through adapting art therapy practices to meet the complex issues experienced during a time of great conflict and change in this country. The specific aims of art therapy sessions were to build authentic relationship within and across cultures, assist exploration of self-potential and strengthen self-capacity in the face of change. The overall aims of teh work were to transfer skills and foster individual initiative thereby helping to develop strategies that promote justice and improve the well-being within counterpart settings where the majority of people live below the poverty line. The thesis starts with a contextual background that examines the issues of cultural diversity. These are related to Bolivia through a review of the country, it's history and current political changes. The research methodologies used are described in relation to the research context. This is followed by descriptions of specific art therapy applications and a detailed case study, ending with the conclusions drawn from this experience.