For kids living with trauma and other mental health conditions, art may be a healing outlet of expression.
Sara Graham is the outreach clinician who heads the Expressive Arts Therapy program at Lahey Behavioral Health in Beverly, Massachusetts.
Art has a long history of being a tool for helping people recover from trauma, build self-esteem, or even build community.
The Expressive Arts Therapy program focuses on the teenage years, a time of life that can be particularly fraught.
When a teenager is experiencing angst or trouble communicating, art helps express the stuff deep down.
“It is especially helpful to those with autism, ADHD, depression, anxiety and social issues to express themselves in ways other than verbal communication,” Graham said. “This program helps bring kids with these types of mental health issues together so they know they are not alone.”
“We are focused on the process of creating art, not necessarily the end product,” Graham added.
Some projects in the program include making worry dolls, painting rocks or posters depicting what’s occupying the minds of these teens. The group also constructs origami cranes, a particularly difficult endeavor for those new to it. Building the cranes teaches stress tolerance and resilience.
“If we keep trying at something, we’ll get better,” Graham explained.
Aiden, 16, is one of Graham’s clients. The program has been a success from his perspective.
“I used to have a lot of anger issues and this has helped me for a while,” Aiden said of the program. “It’s great to have friends to talk to and I get to hang out with people I relate to.”
To learn more, call (978) 921-1190 or visit www.nebhealth.org.