In the Community
Art for Therapy's Sake

avid’s dad has been in and out of jail for gang-related crimes. The fifth-grader is small for his age and has a stutter, which makes him a magnet for bullies.

The one place where he can talk about his problems is the Share and Care art therapy session he goes to once a week. While a small group of students draw and discuss their artworks with gentle guidance from counselor Ossie Mair, their feelings come tumbling out. This is a safe environment where anger can be expressed without clenched fists.

The Psychological Trauma Center, based at Cedars-Sinai, offers Share and Care in nearly 20 elementary schools and several middle and high schools in the Los Angeles area.

Art for Therapy's Sake

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David (not his real name) has been part of Share and Care for about four years. “He keeps coming because he needs the support,” Ossie says. “He talks about being chased and beaten up by other kids, but he’s resilient. He’s hanging in there — he hasn’t joined a gang.”

Most children in Share and Care have been referred by teachers because they’re having academic, behavioral or social problems. Many are growing up around gang and domestic violence and substance abuse. Some have lost loved ones — including young siblings — in gang shootings.

Their drawings make powerful statements about their struggle to cope with trauma. “Children can express feelings through art that they can’t express any other way,” says Suzanne Silverstein, MA, president of the Psychological Trauma Center.

Share and Care fills a crucial need because state budget cutbacks have nearly eliminated funding for school counseling services, she adds. “Many of the kids in our program have no one they can talk to. Through Share and Care, they discover they are not alone.”

Teens helping Teens

he 17-year-old girl was contemplating suicide when she called TEEN LINE. She had been a victim of date rape, as well as physical and emotional abuse at home. At the other end of the phone line was another teenager who talked with her for more than an hour and finally persuaded her to seek professional help.

Many teens in crisis feel adults can’t understand. The hotline, based at Cedars-Sinai, trains teen volunteers to listen to their peers’ problems, discuss options and make referrals to community resources. Each year, more than 10,000 teens contact the program’s hotline, email and live chat services, and TEEN LINE’s Web site receives more than 140,000 visits from around the world. Teens call the hotline to discuss problems related to abuse, drugs and alcohol, divorce, depression,


homelessness, gangs, pregnancy, eating disorders and relationships, among other issues. The hotline is open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

“Our program provides a safe, confidential way for teens to talk things out with a peer who can understand and who will listen but not judge,” says Elaine Leader, PhD, executive director of TEEN LINE.

Pull Quote A Preventive Approach for All Stages of Life