Turning Tension into Trust

“There is one session in particular where I was deeply moved with the interaction between an instructor and a student. The art activity was working with plaster and highlighting a body part. This student is generally very guarded and sometimes difficult to convince to participate. As expected, the student reluctantly joined the group. As the project continued it required “hands-on” assistance from one of the trained facilitators. It was at this time I saw the magic!

As the Expressive Arts Therapist gently placed plaster strips on his hand, one by one, molding each to the shape of his hand, his demeanor began to change. I observed tension, stress, and anxiety leave him and be replaced by calm, care, and happiness. This was the first time I’ve ever seen him in such a content state. 

As she continued to add strips, the magical transformation continued, and his Zen stayed for the rest of the day. I was moved to tears to witness the acceptance by the student to interact and such a powerful level and experience joy in his life. Amazing!  We don’t have any resistance from him to go to art sessions, and he has been encouraging his friends to participate.”      – Ms. Chiasson, Rumford

Rumford teen artist completes a four-week project of plastering his hand three times to create a sculpture that he wrapped in plaster and wire, so they all hold together as a container for his grandma‘s candy. 

“This is Nanas Stash. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here … I’d be in Another home through the state.” 

“We are so lucky to have Jamie and Julianna bringing their program to WFRP! They provide weekly therapeutic art projects that allow our students to process and express their feelings with unique creativity. The two J’s are great at building rapport with the students and using this relationship to encourage their feelings of success with the outcome of their end product. 

It’s amazing how quickly they learn about each student and know when to give them time and when to offer support and encouragement. This can be a tricky task when working with our students that have experienced a lot in their young lives. It has been especially heartwarming to see the transformation in some of our high school students who were initially resistant to engage in art. They have developed an interest and return week after week to create amazing works of art and discover new methods of expressing their feelings.

One particular male student has been able to accept Jamie’s nurturing touch through a plaster hand project. On the first day using this medium, this young man let Jamie spend an hour applying layers of plaster onto his hand. He sat still, trusting her, and appeared calm and open to the process. The second week, he wanted her to finish the other side of his hand project. The third week, this young man – along with all of his male peers – chose to create a second plaster hand project instead of painting, mounting, and finishing the first project. In my opinion they all were seeking that ‘motherly’ nurturing touch that they do not typically receive. This therapeutic arts program is such a nice compliment to the trauma-informed work that we do at Western Foothills Regional Program. We are truly grateful for this wonderful opportunity.” – Krissa Emery, OTR/L

Our newest Community Partner Program in Rumford collaborates with Friends of River Valley. “Their vision is for every child, adult, and family in the River Valley to have access to meals and nutrition, books, and a variety of school, community, and wellness programs through partnering with existing programs and organizations across Western Maine’s Androscoggin River Valley. Friends of the River Valley serves as a centralized resource for supporting and promoting a range of nutrition, education, health, and social services across the River Valley.”