Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Vivien Marcow Speiser


Chronic mental illness has affected many Cambodian people, but, culturally, Cambodians aren’t accustomed to opening up and discussing their feelings, rather defining mental illness to craziness and seeking help is presumed taboo. Thus, Cambodians are often reluctant to talk about their experiences and/or their related illnesses. Though Cambodians have experienced inconceivable suffering and violence during the Khmer Rouge era, for the purpose of this thesis, I will be discussing the role of Cambodian women and investigate the extent of what they’ve witnessed and experienced. Cambodian women have suffered through many years of trauma and grief, during and after the Khmer Rouge regime, but have yet to fully explore the root of their mental health issues. All trauma involves loss, whether it be loss of safety or security, world-view, or the loss of a person by death or other types of separation. Characteristics of grief tend to overlap with those of trauma experience. It is important to remember that the way people grieve and process that grief varies from one person to the next. One of the questions I am asking in this capstone thesis exploration is: Could it be that sometimes the brain’s way of protecting us is to block out painful memories to teach us how to survive. This literature review will be examined and organized into four parts: writings about Cambodian women, trauma, grief, expressive arts therapy and how it relates to this population. Existing research supports the benefits of using Expressive Arts Therapy with Cambodian women who are finding their way to not only cope, but to discover everlasting tools to bring about healing into their everyday lives.

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