Smart therapy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 12:00am

A new form of therapy which combines art and technology helps mentally or physically abused children overcome their fears and lead a normal life again.

Traditionally, psychological therapy involves different artistic mediums, such as drawings. But the Smart Ambience Therapy (SAT) is different.

Jointly developed by the AIMtech Centre of the City University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Association of Art Therapists, the programme uses interactive media and virtual reality technology, along with art, to treat emotionally disturbed youngsters.

SAT's Body Brush technology helps address the participants' negative feelings, including grief, depression, anger, distrust, fear and low self-esteem.

'SAT is divided into four phases,' said Horace Ip Ho-shing, chair professor of the department of computer science and director of the centre. 'We want to help children who have been mentally or physically abused to overcome their fears and get rid of their unpleasant experiences.'

Under the project, launched in 2005, nine children aged six to 12 underwent 10 hours of therapy.

Professor Ip said the children - all of whom had suffered some form of abuse - regained their confidence and became less aggressive after completing the hour-long sessions.

The participants stand in front of a large screen equipped with the Body Brush system, a new tool that transforms body movements into real-time three-dimensional paintings.

Therapists can assess the participants' fears and psychological problems by observing how they play the games and offer them guidance.

'We're now conducting a pilot study with Caritas Jockey Club Lok Yan School and the Association of Art Therapists to understand how SAT can help enhance the learning ability of intellectually disabled students,' Professor Ip said.

SAT could also be used on trauma and sexual abuse victims, and to help family members of abused children.

Four SAT games are on display at the Hong Kong Science Museum until 2011.

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