The Spanish design student Ariadna Sala Nadal has developed a range of mental health tools for survivors of child sexual abuse to help make their emotions more tangible and easier to communicate.
Called Balisa, the therapeutic toolkit includes 21 different modules of unique color, weight and texture, developed in collaboration with specialist psychologists and their patients.
Each of these therapeutic tools represents a different emotion or stage in the patient's healing process.
"During therapy, the patient will relate the emotion he is working on at each moment, such as self-esteem, with the piece he thinks best represents that feeling," says Nadal.
This facilitates the understanding of abstract concepts and improves communication between patient and psychologist. These therapeutic tools allow you to see a physical representation of what you are talking about.
The pieces currently only exist as prototypes modeled in clay or 3D printed. The final versions will incorporate a wide range of materials: from resin to aluminum, from acrylic to acetate.
In this way, each of the therapeutic tools will have different weight, temperature and tactility, to be more easily identified by involving more senses, and distinct from the others.
Balisa, emotional reminder
The pieces can also be assembled together in a sort of totem that the patient places as both a decorative and a symbolic object in his home. A "figurine" of his own healing. A small monument to oneself.
Nadal hopes these therapeutic tools can work as stimuli for reflection and introspection. Visual reminders of how far the patient has come on their journey.
The healing process experienced when survivors face trauma caused by child sexual abuse is long and difficult. For this reason, Balisa therapeutic tools are used both in sessions with the psychologist and when the patient returns home. This allows the survivor to feel safe with a professional as they evolve on their own.Ariadna Nadal, Elisava School of Design and Engineering of Barcelona.
Balisa, therapeutic tools that make interiority tangible
Since dealing with trauma is rarely a linear process, the Balisa kit is designed to act as an open exploration, with patients able to add or subtract different pieces from their totem pole over time.
"It is important not to force the survivor to follow a defined process, but it is better to adapt to the needs of each person," says the designer.
"For this Balisa has no end. The goal is not to heal completely, since everyone will always have problems and situations that concern them. The goal is for the person to learn to manage these problems when they arise".
Nadal aims to start production of the Balisa instruments next year.
Other therapeutic tools that make feelings tangible
Nienke Helder, a graduate of the Design Academy in Eindhoven, has already developed sensory objects to help women who have suffered sexual trauma reclaim their bodies and their sexuality.
Even the Israeli designer Yaara Nusboim studies therapeutic tools that provide different tactile sensations. For this she created a series of baby dolls to use as part of play therapy to help them process difficult or repressed emotions.
The trend of exploring one's inner universe will also continue with the advent of virtual reality, with real ones emotional explorations.