to the report, Criminal Neglect: Substance Abuse Juvenile Justice and the
Children Left Behind, up to 75% of incarcerated youth have mental health
problems. Macomb County's Juvenile
Justice Center emphasizes mental health treatment as a key component to their
programming. This includes Art Therapy, which all residents in both detention
and treatment programs participate in.
is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to
improve and enhance well-being. Art therapists are professionals
accredited by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) with Master’s Degrees or
Specializations in Art Therapy. Research confirms that artistic self-expression
helps troubled youth in conflict resolution, regulating feelings, and improving
Therapy allows residents with disruptive behavior a safe and healthy outlet to
express, explore, and understand their emotions. A picture can say more than a
thousand words. This program has
helped residents express feelings they are unable to through verbal
expression or through talk therapy alone.
I don’t like therapy and I’m not a good artist, but being here is really helping
me open myself up,” a female resident states.
“I can show my true feelings on paper by just drawing.” Artistic expression gives residents emotional
relief and peace. A male resident states, “If I’m upset it makes me feel better
because I get it all out instead of blowing up. It helps me see why I’m mad
because I start to think about it.”
Therapy program also helps residents identify and explore values, goals,
strengths, and skills important to their future success. “It gives us a chance to see where we are now
and where we want to go,” says another resident. A staff member states, “I’ve seen it bring out
a creative side in them they usually do not have a chance to express, or may
not even know they had. The feelings
residents are able to come in touch with allows them different paths to move
studio, residents practice skills needed to overcome problems; this is especially
true when residents feel they’ve messed up.
Instead of giving them new paper, I ask them to keep working. When residents stop giving up in the Art
Therapy studio, it can encourage them to not give up so easily in life.
result of the Art Therapy program is that residents reduce behavioral problems and
become better adjusted to society. “It helped me think about how I fought with
my family a lot. I saw how bad that
actually was and how it affected my relationship with them when I drew it. That helped me think of better ways to handle
situations,” states a male resident.
session focused on empathy, a resident made a statement about the improvement
of group dynamics in his unit, “People aren’t as upset with each other because
we saw how everyone really feels. The
art made it easier to see that I’m not the only one with issues. It helped me stop thinking only about myself.” A staff member states, “Often we see conflict
from residents who are too quick to speak and not willing to listen. In Art Therapy, they slow down and “see” thoughts
and feelings being communicated, which helps them relate to each other and
understand their own selves. This has an
obvious effect on the way they interact.”
and residents agree that Art Therapy has had a positive influence at the Macomb
County Juvenile Justice Center. There are some emotions that no words can