“The art therapy program helped me to work through my problems and go from a kid in crisis to become someone able to contribute to the community and function as an adult.” ~ Participant
Art therapy brings our insides outside and is one way to build a bridge to self-awareness and healing. It offers opportunities for mindfulness while acting as a catalyst for new insights. It acknowledges some things are difficult or impossible to put into words and that externalising our feelings can bring relief.
Open Doors Youth Service is trialling the PRIDE art therapy program, in which young people, who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, sistergirl and/or brotherboy (LGBTIQ+SB) are given the opportunity to express themselves in new and different ways.
The trial, developed in 2017 and funded by a Commission grant, continues as one of the most successful programs run out of Open Doors Youth Service. It has reached more than 3640 young people between the ages of 12 and 24, and encourages self-expression and self-care in healthy, safe ways by connecting to community and culture through artistic activities and exercises.
Participant feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with 60 per cent identifying a significant reduction in anxiety and 100 per cent reporting overall improvement to wellbeing. Importantly, 94 per cent reported feeling a greater connection to the group and the LGBTIQA+SB community.
“It gave us a great place to express ourselves. It was also enjoyable to see the progress in others as they grew in confidence and challenged themselves,” said one of the participants.
“We have all become a tight knit group, a little family, and I am so grateful for it.”
Open Doors also partners with local services and schools that support LGBTIQA+SB youth to deliver the program free of charge to participants.
Partners, including Clontarf Beach State High School, Brisbane Youth Service, PCYC Lang Park and Fortitude Valley, and Jabiru Community Youth & Children’s Services have reported the program's remarkable success and overwhelming uptake among participants, with many expressing strong interest to continue art therapy sessions for future programs, contingent on funding.
Program facilitator and art therapist Mikarla Teague said the young people benefiting from the program are so keen to see it continue they recently held an exhibition and fundraiser auction of their artworks to raise funds for its continuation.
“It’s apparent it has served as a powerful tool for providing mental health benefits that supports young people to live healthy empowered lives by connecting them to community and culture, decreasing stigma and promoting social inclusion,” Marika said.
Artworks developed during the program have been incorporated into an Art for Change Resource Cards deck, which are used as support resources by youth and family support workers, counsellors, and psychologists both at Open Doors Youth Service, and at partnering organisations.
The trial project achieved what it set out to by supporting young LGBTIQ+SB people to live healthy empowered lives through connecting them to community and culture, deceasing stigma and promoting social inclusion.
The PRIDE Art Therapy Program runs weekly in more than 10 organisations around South East Queensland.