Positive Youth Development: Achieving Recovery Through Creativity (A.R.T.C.)

positive-youth-development_sun-and-moonGive teens a microphone or a paintbrush, and they'll often tell you they want to be a music star, become the next Picasso, or produce multi-platinum records.
Maybe they'll achieve that dream and maybe they won't, but I find that giving kids the chance to be creative helps them achieve something even more powerful: healing. And it's lasting, too. 
That's why I think one of the most powerful ways to help youth be successful in (and after) substance abuse treatment is to help them express themselves creatively. 
That's the goal of A.R.T.C., "Achieving Recovery Through Creativity,” a program of Preferred Family Healthcare (PFH), a nonprofit treatment agency based in Missouri. 
A.R.T.C. is a therapeutic creative arts program integrated into our substance abuse and behavioral health programs. It identifies and incorporates the strengths, needs, abilities and preferences of our young clients into their individualized treatment plans.

For example, one young man expressed a strong interest in composing and recording rap music. During the course of his treatment he composed and recorded several songs, one of which expressed his grief associated with losing his brother to gang violence, which he dedicated to his mother:

“I’m tryin’ to do good mama I’m tryin’ to do right, but it’s still so hard tryin’ to sleep at night, I’m livin’ through the struggle and I’m stayin’ alive, It’s hard out here and I ain’t tryin to die, Holdin’ back tears it ain’t my nature to cry, I swear I’m gonna make it mama, I ain’t gonna die.”

Participation in the A.R.T.C. program has given youth something that they may have never before experienced.

“I began with a lot of pessimism … I did not think I could learn any more about myself than I had in prison. I found out that I was wrong because I got the opportunity to do artwork, which I’ve always enjoyed since I was a little kid. I felt that I got to show others what it has been like to live my life and I know that it helped me to trust my Counselor better because she actually gave me the chance to explore my feelings without telling me how I needed to feel. I think that some adults do not realize how difficult it is to describe how chaotic life gets for teens today and I felt that my artwork gave me a voice without feeling stupid or wrong.” Sam, 17.

Other youth describe new feelings of acceptance and accomplishment:

“I never had anyone tell me that I was good at anything until I came to PFH and showed my artistic side.”
“This is the only time I have felt accepted in the past year or so since my life became unmanageable with my choices and actions.”
“I liked being able to feel accepted for my own thoughts and creations without being rejected by others”

So our clients may dream of making the big-time as artists, but this is not the A.R.T.C. vision. Instead, we want to step “outside the box” and break the barriers of normalcy and mediocrity when it comes to reaching out to substance-abusing youth.
We demand that they be seen as the gifted, wonderful and creative individuals that they are.  It is an exemplary opportunity to “heal the heart of a child.” When a prospect such as that arises, how can we pass it up?


positive-youth-development_Kasey-HarlinKasey Harlin, MA CADC CCDP-D (shown at left with her son), is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Certified Co-occurring Disorders Professional-Diplomat in the state of Missouri.  She has 18 years of experience working with adolescents with substance use disorders and is the founder and Program Director for Preferred Family Healthcare’s Achieving Recovery Through Creativity A.R.T.C.  program.
Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc., a private, not-for-profit organization, is the largest provider of substance abuse treatment services in Missouri. Our programs are rooted in evidenced based practices, but we also seek innovative approaches that are both effective and engaging. These include our school-based, prevention and intervention “Team of Concern” project, our avatar-assisted therapy programs, and A.R.T.C., Achieving Recovery Through Creativity.” 
Find out more about Preferred Family Healthcare and the A.R.T.C. program at www.pfh.org/artc.

Youth artwork at top courtesy of A.R.T.C.

Updated: February 08 2018