In honor of spreading awareness about this day, this week I put up a display of artwork from some of the teens I’ve had in my art therapy groups this year. Preparing this display and reflecting on this year’s CMHAD theme of “Finding Help, Finding Hope” inspired me to think about it’s meaning and connection to the work that happens in art therapy. So much about the act of making art is about hope. Despite the challenges and experiences the clients I work with are facing, the creative expression that takes place when they are in art therapy provides a life affirming moment in the here and now to share ones self, emotions, and experiences. Their art helps to make sense of, create meaning, or to re-frame what is often so very hard to do with just words alone. For many of the youth I work with, the art they create often helps them discover or imagine a new beginning, a fresh start, a sense of comfort or safety that they long for. Art making in art therapy offers a place of acceptance, refuge, and support. And as art therapist Bruce Moon reminds us in his book Art-Based Group Therapy: “making art in the presence of others is an expression of hope”. It is a privilege to be able to witness the youth I work with find help and hope through the power of art therapy.
This week I was grateful that I was able to attend the 6th Annual North East Ohio Human Trafficking Symposium organized by the Renee Jones Empowerment Center (RJEC). This day full of learning and information spotlights the serious realities of human trafficking in the NE Ohio area, including programs, services, and resources available to victims and survivors, as well as the role of awareness & prevention. Below is a brief summary of the day, which included a lot of content about youth & human trafficking:
The day kicked off with the Symposium’s Judicial Track, which included information presented by Bianca Smith who serves as an Assistant Bailiff for Juvenile Court in Cuyahoga County. Her presentation focused on the County’s Safe Harbor Pilot Project. This project supports Ohio’s Safe Harbor Law that was passed in 2012 and includes, but not limited to offering treatment-based diversion programs for youth trafficking victims, stiffer charges & sentences for convicted traffickers, and training among law enforcement about human trafficking. In the County’s Juvenile Court, the project is helping to identify youth that can be helped from the pilot project, collaborating with area agencies, such as the RJEC and others to meet programming needs and provide a continuum of care that is trauma informed.
The Symposium’s next track focused on a new program that has been launched by RJEC this year called Men of Purpose. This pilot project includes a partnership with the Ohio Department of Youth Services at the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility. This weekly program offers training sessions on human trafficking awareness and prevention to young men, as an effort to address and reduce the demand of human trafficking. The young men involved in this project presented an overview of what they have learned, its outreach impact with their peers, and what boys and men can do to prevent human trafficking. Last month I was able to meet these remarkable young men to see the programming & facilitators Sheldon Lovejoy & Matt Goins in action, when I visited to speak about art therapy and group work facilitated at RJEC. It’s great to see the success of this programming and dealing with a component important to breaking the cycle of human trafficking.
The Symposium’s Law Update included information about Ohio’s human trafficking laws presented by Maureen Kenny, Professor of Law with the Case Western Reserve School of Law. As a result of new human trafficking laws in the state of Ohio, more services, training, and data collection is taking place- especially in the areas of Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Lucas counties.
Maya Simek, Director of Programs at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland provided content for the Symposium’s Treatment & Programs track, introducing awareness and advocacy for LGBTQ youth and young adults and in relationship to human trafficking risks and vulnerability.
Another very valuable track to the Symposium includes allowing Survivors to share their story and journey of recovery. Rachel Kasik, a Survivor Speaker for RJEC, shared her experience with the audience through a powerful visual timeline that used photography.
The Law Enforcement track featured Detective John Morgan from the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department and highlighted the role of police involvement. This summer, MSNBC did filming in Cleveland for their series Sex Slaves: Fighting Human Trafficking, which chronicles the front lines of law enforcement’s fight to stop human trafficking, create a better understand of this crime to stop it, and how victims can escape from it and seek help & recovery.
The Symposium concluded the day with an overview behind the economics behind human trafficking presented by Matt Goins and an Agent from Ohio’s Investigative Unit for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, Kim Bartholomew. They offered attendees an awareness about the twisted commodity influence behind human trafficking within the US and internationally, including the trafficking of youth victims. This video the presenters showed provided a perspective into this dark reality:
A mission of RJEC’s Project Red Cord includes offering services (including art therapy!) and resources to prevent teens from becoming victims of human trafficking. An upcoming event to support this effort includes the Center’s 1st annual Prevention and Awareness Teen Summit scheduled for next month. This free event will be a day of information & empowerment presented in a creative way to arm and equip teens with knowledge and prevention strategies that will help protect them from becoming a victim.
I am excited that part of the Summit will include community art-making with art therapists to help strengthen the teens’ sense of self & give a voice to their hopes & dreams for the future. There will also be lots of other opportunities for creative expression such as music, dance, poetry, performance, and more! An artful and meaningful day of advocacy & empowerment is planned. Pre- registration is required and can be done by contacting Traci Grasso at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to RJEC and all of this year’s Symposium speakers for this valuable day of learning!
Over the last few months, I’ve been researching and collecting different sensory based activities and ideas (mostly on Pinterest) to support self-regulation and creative ways to foster relaxation in children & adolescents. My long term goal is to create some kind of comfort kit that includes a variety of these hands on tools that I can use in my group work with school age youth impacted by trauma.
For more information about self-regulation, trauma, and children, check out these posts:
I’ve started to move from the “collecting ideas phase” to the “making & experimentation phase”, embarking on trying out these ideas myself to see how they might work.
My first self-regulation comfort kit accessory I’ve started to work on and play with is a Relaxation Bottle. I became inspired by this idea through discovering this helpful post. I thought this type of relaxation bottle could be a soothing and fun way for group members to calm their minds and bodies, as well as help bring their attention to the here and now through focusing on the inside of the bottle.
I gathered these simple supplies: A plastic bottle, extra fine glitter, glitter glue, and clear tacky glue.
Then I followed these steps to make my prototype:
Fill the plastic bottle 3/4 full with hot tap water
Add glitter glue, loose extra fine glitter, and about half a bottle of clear tacky glue
The combination of the glitter glue and clear tacky glue creates a sparkly solution for the fine loose glitter to gently dance in. It is important the water you use to fill the bottle with is hot, as this will melt the glitter glue and will prevent clumping inside the bottle.
Group members could first release some physical energy through helping shake the bottle and then watch the glitter slowly settle to the bottom of the bottle. Discussing the impact of this activity in relationship to the youth’s body and awareness of sensations they experienced would also be interesting to learn more about (and express through art!).
A helpful final touch will include making sure the bottle’s cap is permanently attached with some kind of superglue to keep the solution from getting out!
Having done this first test run, I think my next attempt will try a slightly smaller plastic bottle (it would be cool to have individual bottles for each group member to use), as well as include more glitter glue to make the solution inside a little thicker (I used a smaller sized bottle), but overall… the relaxation bottle idea was fun to make and I think will make a great addition to the toolkit I’m creating.
I will keep you posted on other self-regulation comfort kit accessories I try out as this experimentation phase continues!
This past week-end I enjoyed spending time with art therapy graduate students and faculty at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as part of their 2012 Fall Conference. It was a great couple of days featuring two of my passions in art therapy: an evening presentation about my interest in community organizing through social media and online art collaborations, as well as an all day workshop about my clinical work with youth survivors of domestic violence.
Saturday’s workshop included art-making time focused on creating paper houses as a way to explore and introduce themes related to finding safety through art. It was exciting to see the different houses, environments, and additions students made from the variety of awesome materials provided.
Even more exciting was when we brought our individual houses together to create our own safe village full of creative and vibrant energy (!) :
Earlier this year I was invited by the Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH) to display some of the art from youth that I work with in individual and group art therapy at the Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center (DVCAC). ODMH showcases quarterly art displays from various programs and consumers from around the state in their Columbus office at the James A. Rhodes State Office Tower.
According to the ODMH website, ODMH “works to assure access to quality mental health services for Ohioans at all levels of need and life stages”. One of ODMH’s core beliefs is a commitment to Trauma Informed Care, as well as the Resiliency of Youth. Check out both of these links on the ODMH website to learn more and access their recommended resources.
The display from DVCAC runs October 1 through December 31 and features art expressions from children & adolescents who have been impacted by domestic violence and are involved in group or individual art therapy through DVCAC’s community-based outreach program. Art on display explores themes related to safety, resilience, emotional expression, domestic violence prevention, and managing trauma stress. Art expressions include collage, drawing, painting, handmade papermaking, paper house making, and mask making. Click on the image below to download a flier [PDF] about the display.
If you are in the Columbus area over the next three months, take a moment to visit ODMH and this display. My appreciation to the youth who participated through sharing their art, feelings, and a part of their life to empower their own voice, as well as bring awareness to others about their experience.
The Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) is about to start here (March 22-April 1) and this year’s line up of films includes INOCENTE, a short documentary about an adolescent girl’s struggles and experience with her family’s chronic homelessness, as well as finding solace, hope, and comfort through the power of painting. Check out the powerful trailer from the film’s distributor ShineGlobal:
INOCENTE is an intensely personal and vibrant coming of age documentary about a young artist’s fierce determination to never surrender to the bleakness of her surroundings. INOCENTE is both a timeless story about the transformative power of art and a timely snapshot of the new face of homelessness in America, children.
Working as an art therapist and trauma consultant with youth and families in shelter, but also Latina youth in the community exposed to family violence, I am looking forward to learning more about INOCENTE’s story through this documentary. I’ve been following the film over the last few months via Facebook and Twitter, receiving updates and news about children & homelessness, as well as issues impacting the Latina community to further develop my awareness, understanding, and practice.
A Latina based resource that I would also like to suggest related to domestic violence and abuse is this overview of information for Latina and/or Immigrant Women from the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center here in Cleveland. This page introduces some of the specific issues and needs that this community can face related to breaking the cycle of violence, entering a shelter, and accessing services.
This past week, I’ve started to upload preview photos for the art therapy photo documentary project Spaces & Places: Where We Create. It has been very inspiring to see and learn about the creative spaces of the project’s endorsers who are offering a sneak peek into their work, spaces, and favorite tools of the trade. I am looking forward to learning even more from future submissions when Spaces & Places: Where We Create officially launches to the art therapy community on February 13.
I’ve been working on getting my photos together for the project, both my own personal art-making space and favorite materials, as well as the different spaces and such that I use as an art therapist. Here are some initial pics that I have taken:
These series of photos (above) show my creative space and office used for my own art-making, art therapy supervision, and small group art meet ups with friends & colleagues. The space is packed with my favorite art supplies (for collage, art journaling, altered art & bookmaking, painting, & drawing), inspiring photos, art, notes, toys, books, and more.
Part of my work at DVCAC includes providing community based art therapy to youth exposed to domestic violence through individual or support group services. I also offer individual and group art therapy to youth and women who come to shelter to escape domestic violence. As seen in previous posts here, I often use Paper House Making to explore and address safety planning, safe places, and to help contain overwhelming feelings associated with the worry, fear, and terror that children and adolescents from violent homes experience. Another photo I included is a material pic connected an art journaling group I recently started for women in shelter as a non-threatening space and means to manage traumatic stress and strengthen coping.
When I started working in the social services field over 15 years ago, my first job was as a residential care youth worker. The unit I worked on included 10 pre-adolescent boys struggling with severe emotional and behavioral needs as a result of abuse, early childhood abandonment, and neglect. One of my first memories of beginning this new adventure was introducing purposeful and structured group time focused on general art making for relaxation, positive interaction, and self-expression. The programming was well received by the boys, my co-workers, and agency administrators, so much that they wanted more. This setting is eventually where I was fortunate enough to start my art therapy career, have the opportunity to develop the agency’s first art therapy program, and start to better understand some of the benefits and challenges related to group work within a partial hospitalization program.
Fast forward about nine years later when I transitioned from the residential treatment setting to work in a shelter with youth impacted by domestic violence, as well as work within a bereavement program with grieving children and teens, where I started to learn more about and become better skilled at trauma informed group work. A lot of this experience was obtained through great support and supervisors I was lucky enough to have in these settings, as well as the commitment I made to become certified as a Trauma Specialist and Consultant through The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC).
I am very grateful that during the last eight years I have been able to serve and focus most of my art therapy work on trauma informed groups for helping at-risk children and adolescents, whether this includes youth in crisis from exposure to domestic violence, adolescents in foster care, children and teens in shelter coping with homelessness, or grieving youth who have experienced traumatic death loss.
Inspired by this journey, I am excited to announce my new online course , Group Strategies & Interventions with Traumatized Children and Adolescents. To learn more and register, check out information about the course here being offered through TLC. My course focuses on the benefits and considerations important to facilitating group work with traumatized youth and introduces participants to themes, sensory based activities, therapeutic books, games, and creative interventions to implement in the group setting with traumatized youth.