By: Misha Grifka, Y.O.U.
Published: April 26, 2016
Y.O.U. embraces using clinically-informed programming, because we want to give our youth the tools to encounter and overcome social and emotional challenges in their life. However, not everyone participating in Y.O.U. is comfortable with the idea of therapy. Naimah Thomas, Y.O.U.’s Art Therapy Intern, wants to make therapy more welcoming—through art.
“One of my goals was to decrease the stigma around receiving therapy. I’m always hesitant to say ‘I’m an art therapist’ because people think, ‘Oh, I don’t need a therapist,’” she said. “With art therapy programs, I can see them in a space that’s different than the typical office. They can be comfortable and not in a sterile place.”
Naimah has been working with Y.O.U’s afterschool program at Chute Middle School to incorporate art therapy techniques into different curriculum. In one example, youth led discussions about current events, like the Black Lives Matter movement, while creating art projects. The youth also created “Portraits of an Upstander,” which depicted what it means to be someone who stands up to injustice.
“It’s really amazing to have your work up in a gallery, because if you feel like you don’t have a voice, and then someone is seeing that you do have this talent, and you do have something to say, it’s very powerful,” Naimah says.
Naimah reached Y.O.U. Chute families as well through an art-therapy-themed Family Night. Families were given paint and canvas to work with while they talked to their youth,” says Y.O.U. Chute Afterschool Program Manager Janese Johnson-Meyer.
“There was one point where I looked up and every person was touching paint, or talking to their kids about the paint and what they were doing,” Janese said. “I’ve never seen this type of engagement before.”
Making art also teaches youth crucial life lessons. Part of Naimah’s curriculum is learning how to embrace mistakes and see the opportunity in them. “I’ve noticed more people saying ‘Ms. Thomas says it’s okay to embrace your mistakes’ and I’m like, ‘Yes! It is okay!’ We all make mistakes, we’re all human, and we can get up from them,” she said.