New partnership yields Therapeutic Arts Initiative

Melanie Todd, Staff writer

The Art Therapy program and Harborcreek Youth Services (HYS) forged a new relationship through music to help connect with the youth in the program and give them new ways of expressing and connecting with their emotions.

“Harborcreek Youth Services and Mercyhurst have a long history of collaborations, especially with our Criminal Justice majors,” Craig Stevens, Merychurst’s music therapy director said.

Now, Haborcreek is looking to extend its relationship with Mercyhurst beyond the Criminal Justice Department.

“Recently, they have been looking into current research that supports working with trauma and abuse through the Expressive and Therapeutic Arts. HYS contacted both our Music and Art Therapy departments and we loved the idea,” Stevens said.

The program is in its beginning stages, but hopes to expand over time.

“The overall goal of this initiative is to build and implement a Trauma-Informed Therapeutic Arts program that provides much needed therapy for the residents at Harborcreek Youth Services. Ideally, this will combine music, art, and movement therapies as well as counseling techniques in order to facilitate deeper emotional and creative expression for the residents,” Stevens said.

The initiative includes Mercyhurst graduate and Board Certified Music Therapist Samuel Krahe and Music Therapy students Kevin Timko and Chris Tobin. The students and Krahe started working with Harborcreek in early October.

“I help plan sessions with Sam, Chris Tobin and our professor,” Timko said.

There are many different ways the music can help an individual.

“We have been working on songs together, rapping, singing and they have also been writing songs on their own. I play the instruments,” Tobin said.
Art Therapy also helps victims of trauma, but in a different way than traditional therapy methods.

“Creativity often allows us to access deeply rooted emotions a little easier, but it’s only through the therapeutic relationship between therapist and client that true change happens,” Stevens said.

Harborcreek’s therapy techniques are not traditional to begin with.

“Trauma-Informed Care sees trauma a little differently from a traditional medical model. It doesn’t ask ‘what’s wrong with you’ but rather ‘what happened to you,’” Stevens said.

In a short time period, the program has already produced results.

“Fellow therapists, advisors, faculty, and aides have noticed a very positive difference within the students receiving music therapy in the very short time we have been there. Many of the students have behavioral problems and music therapy offers them an outlet that they seem to be fully embracing,” Timko said.

Art therapy students are required to do clinical rotations to complete their degrees and this program will help fulfill those requirements.

“This is the first time I’ve ever gotten to do something like this. I’m very proud to be a part of the initiative at Harborcreek Youth Services,” Timko said.