Center On: Youth success on art in therapy

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Arts-focused therapy for LGBTQ youth is one of the longest-standing programs at Center on Halsted. The use of art in therapy at COH began as a response to the increasing rates of trauma-affected LGBTQ youth. According to the Center for Disease Control’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, LGBTQ youth experience higher rates of sexual assault, domestic violence, and hate crimes than heterosexual youth. Overall, LGBTQ youth report high levels of physical violence and verbal harassment specifically related to their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. One in five report having been physically assaulted at school. LGBTQ youth are more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to have experienced child abuse, including physical abuse and sexual abuse.

To combat overwhelming statistics, COH began the use of art in therapy. The programs organically evolved based on the need for mental health services among our youth and the usefulness of art as a means of communication and expression. These arts-focused programs include a wide variety of workshops that integrate many faces of the arts, including drawing, painting, jewelry and craft-making, dance, and music. “Many of the art programs have a particular subject or topic that promotes self-introspection and advances personal development”, shares Greg Storms, Director of Youth Services. “By generating a soothing, productive space dedicated to artistic creation, young people who have experienced traumatic events discover how they are able to address or confront various aspects of their trauma in productive and healthy ways”.
The following has been modified to protect identity and ensure confidentiality. “One year ago, a 16-year gay, African-American transgender male entered the program with concerns of depression and suicidal ideations. He was experiencing persistent bullying at school and had a limited social support network”, says Luis Couret, Youth Program Clinician.

Through his work with his Youth Clinician, he identified creative drawing as one of his strengths. “He developed a journal of his feelings through pictures he created that displayed a wide range of emotions. He consistently brought his journal to his weekly sessions and over time he looked forward to share his art”. The use of art in therapy provided the tools and support he needed to address his trauma, as well as expand his LGBTQ community network. One-year later he continues to be actively involved in the Youth Program and Behavioral Health services at COH and is considering applying for the Youth Leadership Academy.

Arts-focused Youth Programs at COH are proving to be a model for success. Addressing trauma in productive ways remains the common thread. “Since July, 2016, we have provided 252 arts-focused workshops for LGBTQ youth”, Greg shared. However, the cited CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that LGBTQ youth and our LGBTQ community will benefit from expanding the reach of COH arts-focused therapy.

Will you persist with us to support arts-focused therapy programs for LGBTQ youth?

Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s largest community center dedicated to advancing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Movement.

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