Association Expanse deals with destigmatization, social affirmation and human rights of people with mental health problems and since 2009 we implemented art projects using an innovative approach to psychosocial programs within psychiatric institutions and beyond.
In recent years, Serbia has increased the number of people with mental health problems as a result of accumulated stress, which is the cause of economic impoverishment, wars, the overall deterioration of living conditions in the period of transition. In addition to the high degree of social exclusion and invisibility of the problem, poor opportunities for economic empowerment, users are faced with a lack of understanding, fear and rejection of the immediate environment, family and friends.
Nowadays, the existing diagnostic methods and treatments of mental illness are often challenged. Depersonalization, alienation, abuse and neglect of users of psychiatric services have led to the focus of ethical issues some of which have not been resolved even in modern psychiatric practice.
The main objectives of the association Expanse are anti-stigma programs, social inclusion of users of psychiatric services, economic empowerment, public awareness and deinstitutionalization.
The Association Expanse applies art therapy methods in its work in terms of social action. AT techniques are based on the finding that every person, whether having specific art preparation and skills or not, has the inherent capacity to project her/his own feelings visually. As the client represents such inner experiences visually, it often happens that s/he also begins to express her/himself more easily (Naumburg, 1958).
We prioritize work with marginalized groups whose voice is not heard, we challenge destructive ideologies and myths surrounding us, and attempt to reduce existing social differences and inequality, accepting the fact that political neutrality and therapeutic passivity are conducive to systemic injustice and repression. We push art therapy methods beyond the conventional, using them outside the ìcounseling roomî (Hocoy, 2004), combining them with norms prescribed by the community. In the community, art therapy and social action get unified. It consists in a process of understanding personal stories as real and ordinary; it includes involving common people in situations that are understandable, concrete and meaningful to them.