Casa del Carmen launches art therapy pilot program to support child development
The program will aim to positively impact social and emotional well-being and cognitive growth, and will last through the Summer.
With the COVID-19 pandemic having impacted youth in a variety of ways, Casa del Carmen Preschool Academy is playing a role in helping creatively mitigate some of its effects.
On June 29, the Academy launched the “Spark School-Based Art Therapy” pilot program for 27 preschool-aged children who are taking part in Casa del Carmen’s Summer camp program.
The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as “an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”
“It’s like a social, emotional learning experience for them through using art,” said Shari Gold, director of Casa del Carmen Preschool Academy, during an interview with AL DÍA.
The pilot program will aim to positively impact the children’s social, emotional, developmental and cognitive growth and well-being, with the need to do so being enhanced as a result of the pandemic.
“Over the past year, we’ve noticed that children have been home for so long [and] that a lot of times they haven’t developed their social skills,” said Gold.
She added that being in quarantine and not being able to experience childcare for over a year can also result in mental trauma for many of the children.
In addition, the art therapy program will aim to bridge the gap in clinical service delivery for students and families who may not otherwise have access to such services.
This is particularly needed in the community Casa del Carmen has served for multiple decades since it was founded, as Latinos make up about 55% of the Hunting Park neighborhood in North Philadelphia.
“We definitely need to talk about social, emotional mindfulness and mental health, especially because [in the] neighborhood that we represent, we don’t talk about emotions, we don’t express ourselves,” said Gold.
According to a 2017 Salud America! research review, nearly 78% of Latino adolescents and adults have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience. That is a stark contrast to about 46% of youth in general.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) include poverty, neglect, abuse and forms of household dysfunction, such as divorce, violence, substance abuse disorder and others.
In addition, more than 50% of Hispanic young adults ages 18-25 with serious mental illness may not receive treatment, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The social isolation that has taken place over the past year due to the pandemic has likely added another layer to those numbers.
The art therapy program will be led by art psychotherapist Kristen Rashid, who will allow the children the opportunity to express themselves through wordless language and child-centered art therapy methods, while providing them with mindfulness tools that children can use in their everyday lives.
Rashid will evaluate the effectiveness of the program through weekly progress reports. At its start, she provided a pre-test and will be providing a post-test at the end of the program to see how much progress was made throughout its duration.
As a preschool academy, the children involved in the program are aged three to five — critical developmental ages for children before moving onto kindergarten.
Therefore, Gold said, the instructors and staff at the academy make sure to be inclusive in all its practices.
“We have to also work with our parents to make sure that once [the children] leave us, the tools that we’ve given them are still being used,” she said.
The “Spark School-Based Art Therapy” program is held Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m, and will run for eight weeks through the summer. Enrollment for the program is still being accepted.
For more information about Casa del Carmen Preschool Academy, click here.