Embracing Art Therapy: A Pathway to Cultural Integration for Balkan Third Culture Kids in Singapore

Published on 18th August, 2023 by Michelle Baraba

Embracing Art Therapy: A Pathway to Cultural Integration for Balkan Third Culture Kids in Singapore

Moving to a new country is undoubtedly an adventure, filled with the promise of new experiences and opportunities. However, for families who have recently migrated to Singapore, this journey may also come with unique challenges, especially for their children, who are often referred to as Third Culture Kids (TCKs). As an art therapist with personal experience of having moved from Croatia to Singapore at the age of 9, I understand these struggles first-hand.

In this article, we will explore the profound impact of art therapy on TCKs, and how seeing an art therapist from a similar background can serve as a comforting bridge between cultures, promoting integration and emotional well-being.

The Journey of a Third Culture Kid

Stepping foot into the vibrant streets of Singapore, I was immediately captivated by the allure of the unknown. The language barrier, however, posed a significant challenge as I embarked on the journey to learn English. Despite my efforts, I often felt misunderstood and longed for the comfort of connecting with others from similar cultural backgrounds.

These experiences shaped my appreciation for the power of art as a means of expression and connection, ultimately guiding me towards the path of becoming an art therapist. Art became my refuge, a place where I could express myself authentically without the limitations of language. Having an art therapist from my own culture during that period would have been a treasured gift, providing me with a sense of belonging and acceptance that transcends borders.

The Healing Touch of Art Therapy

Art therapy is a therapeutic approach that harnesses the creative process of making art, and has proven to be a profound tool for aiding TCKs in their cultural integration. Here's how art therapy can positively impact TCKs:

  1. Bridging Cultural Gaps: Art therapy serves as a universal language that transcends cultural barriers, enabling TCKs to express themselves without relying solely on verbal communication. Through art, they can communicate their feelings, experiences, and emotions, fostering connection and understanding of their new environment.

  2. Exploring Cultural Identity: Moving to a foreign country can challenge a child's sense of identity. Art therapy offers a safe space for TCKs to explore and celebrate their cultural heritage, reinforcing a strong sense of self amidst the complexities of blending cultures. This is especially so with a therapist that speaks their native language.

  3. Coping with Transition: Cultural transitions can be overwhelming, leading to feelings of isolation and homesickness. Art therapy provides a therapeutic outlet for TCKs to process their emotions, easing the transition and promoting emotional well-being.

  4. Creating a Supportive Community: Engaging in art therapy alongside other TCKs from similar cultural backgrounds fosters a supportive community where they can share experiences and find comfort in shared struggles. This camaraderie can be achieved through art therapy groups, strengthening one’s sense of belonging in the new setting.

The Comfort of a Native Art Therapist

Having a native art therapist in Singapore is like having a piece of home close by. This shared cultural understanding allows TCKs to feel understood and accepted without the need to explain their background constantly. For children that are still in the beginning stages of learning English, a pictorial dictionary can be incorporated to enhance their understanding of the surrounding world. The art therapist can also incorporate elements of culture into the sessions, creating a nurturing and comforting environment that feels close to the heart.


For parents recently settled in Singapore, art therapy presents an invaluable opportunity for your children to navigate the challenges of being Third Culture Kids. By harnessing the creative process of making art, your children can embrace their cultural heritage, cope with cultural transitions, and find a sense of belonging in their new home. As an art therapist with personal experience, I wholeheartedly encourage Balkan parents to consider the powerful impact of art therapy in nurturing your children's emotional well-being. Being an art therapist with a shared cultural background, I understand the significance of language and the need for cultural connection during the therapeutic process. By offering art therapy sessions in both English and the native Balkan language, children can freely express themselves in whichever language they feel most comfortable with. This bi-lingual approach fosters a deeper sense of understanding and rapport, allowing children to communicate their thoughts, emotions, and experiences with ease.

Michelle Baraba

About the Author - Michelle Baraba

Michelle is a licensed and certified Psychotherapist and Art Psychotherapist, bilingual in English and Croatian. She implements a holistic approach to therapy, embracing the five components of well-being (social, emotional, spiritual, financial, and academic). Michelle offers a strengths based, solution-focused, and client-centered therapeutic approach. Michelle's passion for helping others and her commitment to ongoing education and professional development make her an excellent choice for those seeking compassionate and effective therapy.

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