The Durga Project: A Narrative Approach to Art Therapy Groups with Adolescent Nepali Survivors of Forced Prostitution

Graduation Date

Spring 2005

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


Lizbeth Martin, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Gwen Sanders, MFT, ART-BC


The small South Asian nation of Nepal loses thousands of its female population every year to the Indian brothel systems often by coercion, deceit, or force and is propelled by poverty, gender inequality, government corruption and organized crime (Ely-Raphel, 2002; Friedman, 1996; Gupta, 2003). Once in the brothels, girls are consigned to a life of indentured servitude where they often contract HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and are subjected to physical, sexual, and psychological brutality (HRW, 1995).The result of such traumatic experiences can be severe and range from symptoms of post traumatic stress, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety (Briere, 1992). The psychological symptoms related to an HIV diagnosis include guilt, shame, hopelessness, and depression (Bussard & Kleinman, 1991; Edwards, 1993; Greer & Watson, 1985, as cited by Alfonso & Cohen, 1997).

Art therapy groups are proposed to be an effective and appropriate modality in treating victims of such trauma and may be most effective for victims of sexual assault/abuse (Appleton, 2001; Brooke 1997; Cohen & Cox, 1995; Cox &

Anderson, 1998, 1999; Gil, 1994; Hagwood, 2000; Murphy, 2001 Pifalo, 2002 Sweig, 2000). Additionally, art therapy has proven useful in the psychological care of those suffering from HIV/AIDS, providing for hope and meaning in the lives of those facing a stigmatizing fatal illness (Aldridge, 1993; Edwards, 1993). The fourteen week art therapy program titled The Durga Project outlined in this proposal will use art therapy interventions in a group setting as a way of creating a community of support among its participants as they process, through art and discussion, their experience of forced prostitution and trafficking.

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