“I Feel Like I Am Finding Peace”: Exploring the Use of a Combined Art Therapy and Adapted Seeking Safety Program with Refugee Support Groups


  • Gretchen E. Ely University at Buffalo, State University of New York
  • Samantha Koury
  • Kim Bennett
  • Cari Hartinger
  • Susan Green
  • Thomas Nochajski




Seeking safety, mandala, art therapy, PTSD, trauma-exposed refugees, trauma symptoms


This paper describes the creation and implementation of a trauma support group intervention which combined aspects of the Seeking Safety model with an art therapy technique in an effort to reduce trauma-related symptoms in a population of refugees.  A preliminary assessment was carried out to evaluate the potential effectiveness of the combined approach with trauma-exposed refugees.  Based on facilitator notes from 8 sessions of two women’s refugee groups and one men’s group, three themes were identified: mandala creation enhanced the Seeking Safety content, language barriers impacted the potential for implementation, and the trauma support group was a means of personal growth for participants. Reports from facilitators and participants also suggested a reduction in trauma-related symptoms and an increase in participant use of safe coping skills as a result of group participation. While additional research is needed, these exploratory results suggest that this combined approach holds promise for positively impacting trauma symptoms in trauma-exposed refugees.

Author Biography

Gretchen E. Ely, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Associate Professor


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