Therapeutic healing

"Every child is an artist,” famed artist Pablo Picasso once said. “The problem is how to remain an artist once she grows up.” That quote resonates with art therapist Becky Jacobson, who uses art to help people heal.
In a room labeled the garden room, a bright space with lavender-colored walls and pebble-gray chairs, art therapist Becky Jacobson might ask her patients to imagine a safe place, but she doesn’t ask them to describe it to her — she wants them to draw it.

The patients are free to draw whatever they envision, expressing themselves through their colored markers, a form of healing through art therapy.

“Some people might not feel safe anywhere because they have had hard things happening to them, and I have the background to help that person reground and feel safe in the group,” Jacobson said.

Becky Jacobson leads a Mind-Body Art Teen group at the Heart & Mind Therapy Services, a support group for teenagers ages 14 to 19 typically suffering from mental health issues including anxiety, depression, trauma and PTSD.

Jacobson uses art therapy, yoga and other sensory outlets to help teens develop healthy coping skills, relieve stress and anxiety, and heal from trauma.

“It’s almost like doing therapy with an additional language available to you,” Jacobson said.

The program is open to any teenager, but Jacobson said most of the teens who have participated since it first started two years ago have suffered from a mental health problem.

“It can be even harder in our teenage years to talk about certain things, but when you can put it out there in a creative way, then it feels more safe,” Jacobson said.

Amy Reamer, a play therapist who owns the Heart and Mind Therapy services, helped develop the group and hired Jacobson as an independent contractor to conduct the Mind-Body Art Teen group and to work with individual clients who seek art therapy.

“One of the things we’ve found that has drawn teens to this group for the most part is because it’s not seen as sitting around in a circle of metal chairs in groups therapy,” Reamer said. “Therapy is about learning, learning what makes sense, learning what works for you. Not everybody is an auditory type of learner where they can talk through it.”

During the six to eight week program, Jacobson meets with the group an hour per week, each session with a specific mindfulness exercise in mind such as yoga, meditation or breathing exercises. She will also pair an art activity to go with it, adapting it if needed, based on the teens’ engagement with the activity. The program runs twice a year, and registration is currently open for the next group which will be held in early summer.

Jacobson, a soft-spoken woman, talks slowly and calmly as if she thinks carefully about every word before it escapes. Jacobson owns her own practice, Mind-Body Art Essentials, where she does art therapy, yoga and massage therapy. She has worked with a lot of children, teens and adults on grief and loss, and she applies similar methods to the Mind-Body Art Teen support group.

“I wanted to teach teens how to learn mindfulness techniques, learn about how the mind and body work together in their experiences,” Jacobson said. “It’s great to see that they are learning healthy skills in reducing stress instead of turning to unhealthy habits.”

Reamer said a unique aspect of art therapy is the use of colors to express emotions. The patients can make color charts, assigning a color to each emotion, making it easier for them to identify their feelings instead of using words.

“I ask them, if anger was a color what color is it? And then they give it to me just like that,” Reamer said snapping her fingers. “I always say that because colors and emotions are neighbors.”

Another activity the teens do is to create an inside-outside box. They can create images that they want to share to the outside world, and create images to put on the inside of the box that they don’t want to share.

Reamer conducts a pretest and posttest of the patients using the Symptoms and Functioning Severity Scale, and she said she has found that there is an overall reduction in stress and discomfort among the teens.

At the beginning of each group, Jacobson said that the teens are apprehensive to open up and share their art with each other, and some of them barely contribute more than a word. Toward the end, she said they start to become less tense.

“They really start to bond together and realize that they are not alone and that there’s other people that understand how they feel,” Jacobson said.

To register for the Mind-Body Art Teen group, contact Art Therapist Becky Jacobson by phone at (804) 482-1840 or by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The next group is expected to start in early summer. Registrants will be notified when the dates are established.
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May 2017
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West Broad Village’s Rock & Roll Summer outdoor concert series continues at “The Pad,” adjacent to Aloft Hotel at 3939 Duckling Dr., from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. KOS Band will perform hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s. The concert is free and open to the public. Several parking decks feature free parking. The series continues every other Friday through August. For details, visit http://www.shopwestbroadvillage.com or www.facebook.com/WestBroadVillageShopping. Full text

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