Art as Refuge from Sociopolitical Turmoil: Clay Art Therapy for Secondary School Students in Combating Emotional Distress

Joshua Kin-Man Nan

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


This research study endeavors to help local secondary students to cope with psychophysiological stress via a clay art therapy (CAT) intervention program and build meanings of life during the moment of sociopolitical turmoil in Hong Kong society, created by the Anti-Extradition Bill Movement and outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The CAT intervention further delves into the healing mechanism of clay art creation. This mixed-methods study allocates local grade 10-11 students into either a CAT group or waitlist control group (N=122). Intervention efficacy is measured by art-based inquiry, qualitative posttreatment focus group interviews, and quantitative questionnaires. In six 2-hour CAT sessions, the students progressively grasp the knowledge and techniques of pottery art-making. Parallelly, they are guided to cultivate personally meaningful miniatures while immersing themselves into the interactive dialogue with clay to face the challenges of life. The research results support that CAT acts as a learning process to inspire existential understandings of life, sublimate negative emotions, and accept the ideal-reality discrepancies, then transcribe those qualities into daily circumstances and create new meanings in adversities of life. This research advocates clay art as an alchemical process that fosters psychological wellbeing within the individual. It marks the influence of the current sociopolitical agitation on public mental health; records how art can restore, enhance the wellbeing of life and the limitations in it. The art-based, qualitative research components help to build the theoretical underpinnings of CAT during clinical treatments while the empirical evidence shows the effects of the intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2020
Event15th International Conference on The Arts in Society: Against the Grain: Arts and the Crisis of Democracy - Online
Duration: 24 Jun 202026 Jun 2020 (Conference programme)


Conference15th International Conference on The Arts in Society
Internet address


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