It’s the first day of Autumn, which reminded me that I wanted to share a wonderful activity called The Tree of Life. I was recently introduced to this exercise during orientation to CIIS‘s Expressive Arts Therapy program a few weeks ago.
The Tree of Life was developed by Ncazelo Ncube, a child psychologist from Zimbabwe, who co-partnered with the Dulwich Centre in Adelaide, Australia to create a healing exercise for children who had lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. This gentle project allows people to find strength in their own personal stories using the tree as a metaphor (http://www.dulwichcentre.com.au/tree-of-life.html).
This strength-based arts activity has been used in various communities around the world. For instance, CIIS has partnered with The Glide Foundation in San Francisco in a research study to observe the use of expressive arts therapy with vulnerable children (http://www.ciis.edu/News/Glide_Research_Project.html). This activity is one of the arts-based methods being utilized to help kids develop strengths through their own histories in a way that does not re-traumatize them.
My “Lemon Cohort” classmates and I made our own trees during orientation. When I got home, I decided to incorporate what had gone into my tree that day directly into my journal. There is so much that can go into each level: the roots, which represent one’s ancestry and family history; the ground to signify current sources of strength and influences; the trunk to describe one’s skills and abilities; branches as dreams, hopes and wishes; leaves to signify important people in one’s life and; the fruits – gifts that have been bestowed upon us.
My son worked on his own tree for a little while. He put “babysitter” on his trunk, which is cute, as he’s never babysat for anyone. I’ll take it to mean that this is a skill that he is developing.
I enjoy being back in school, and it’s great to have aesthetic responses and experiential activities incorporated into the curriculum. Naturally, there is also quite a bit of reading, which is why I have not been blogging very much. Life has been busy, which is good. All of these new experiences will find themselves on a future Tree of Life.