CIS Uses Art Therapy to Support Students’ Grief, Trauma

“This experience allowed me to just breathe.”

– CIS Student

Communities In Schools has been providing social-emotional learning (SEL) activities and programs for students for years, but the need to provide SEL and mental health supports has taken on a heightened focus this school year. Due to the pandemic, children and teens experienced long periods of remote instruction, isolation, and trauma. Many need opportunities to process their emotions and learn healthy ways to address loss, grief, and anxiety, which in turn will help them be able to focus in their classes.

At Myers Park High School this spring, our three CIS Site Coordinators there – Stacey Weinstein, Renee Drake, and Olivia Hughes – collaborated to offer an art therapy workshop for some of their students who have been experiencing serious trauma and grief, such as loss of a parent, coping with gender identity, depression, anxiety/stress, and more. They contracted with Rebeca Carvajal of RebelucionArte.com. Carvajal is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Board Certified Registered Art Therapist (ATR-BC). The workshop series centered around creating “Altered Books,” where various mixed media techniques and journaling prompts are used on an actual book to “alter” the book to become a personalized work of art and self-expression. As Carvajal explains, “Art often can express what words cannot.”

“The workshop was amazing and the kids absolutely loved it,” Weinstein said. “We had originally planned for four sessions, but they were getting so much out of it and enjoying it, that we added two more sessions.”

Here are a few comments students shared upon completion of the workshop:

“I liked expressing myself with art because it allowed me to show how I feel.”
“It allowed me to be comfortable in my own skin.”
“This experience allowed me to just breathe.”
“I learned to never doubt myself because my journey continues.”
“I found this to be an escape for me.”
“Having this opportunity showed me that I can be more open with people.”

Kudos to our team at Myers Park for arranging this opportunity with Rebelucion Arte to support students’ mental health and social-emotional needs.