I was fortunate to be invited to teach and train professionals in Seoul, South Korea this spring. I spent two weeks in the heart of Seoul getting to know the culture and the dedicated people who live and work there. My host was Jung Myung Lee, the director of Tamalpa South Korea, a branch of Tamalpa Institute in Marin County, a movement based expressive arts therapy training program. Jung Myung organized my teaching work in the training programs at Tamalpa South Korea, with a psychiatric group, offering an inservice to staff at a trauma center, and facilitating a 3 day public workshop to professionals. My teaching in South Korea was focused on the big issues of addiction, eating disorders, trauma and grief through the use of creativity. I also showed my first film about love, loss and art, When the Fall Comes to these groups with Korean sub-titles.
In general, I learned about the strong resistance in Korean culture to address mental health issues. Despite this challenge, I was extremely impressed by the care and commitment the students and workshop professionals bring to their psychological, creative and somatic work. I felt the urgency and strong need to address these difficult issues while embracing the power of the arts with a somatic (body-based approach). I was especially inspired by The Ansan Mental Health Trauma Center I visited. This is a healing center that was founded in response to a devastating ferry accident in 2014. They are the first trauma center in Korea. Ansan Center offers counseling and psychiatric support in addition to activity programs that include art therapy, meditation and pressed flower arts. Learn more about the ferry accident and the recovery effort here.
It was an extremely interesting adventure. In addition to my work, I was also able to soak in some of the sights, visiting Korean palaces, a Buddhist temple, museums and Myeongdong, a famous shopping area. Notably, I was visiting during the historic summit meeting on April 27th between the North and South Korean leaders, there was a lot of celebration and discussion about this event. I am grateful to all of the people who participated in my events and trainings, and to those who showed me around including my former students Grace Misook Lee and Mina Mo. Special thanks to Jung Myung Lee and Sarah Chung who worked so hard to make my visit successful!