When the new YCS art therapist greeted a group of young men for their first session on the KB campus, one of the youths pulled his hoodie down low and remained silent the entire session. He, like the therapist, Victoria Faljean was new to YCS and understandably apprehensive.
At the second session, the 17 year old youth adamantly told Ms. Faljean “I don’t like art; I am not an artist; and I never liked art class.” Ms. Faljean was not deterred. “I wanted him to see how he could help himself.” She patiently explained to him that art therapy is based on the exploration of art materials and the creative process rather than the end product or talents of the person making the art.
Ms. Faljean slowly gained the young man’s confidence and he came up with his own plan for what he wanted to draw. For several weeks he has been working on a canvas painting of flowers – in the center he wrote – “Enjoy Life.” The young man told Ms. Faljean “I hate learning how to make things. But I learned I can paint my own ideas.” Creating art has become an enjoyable experience for the youth; and at his request, Ms. Faljean created a kit with a palette of paints, brushes and a canvas so he could paint on his unit.
The benefits of art therapy have carried over to his other interactions on the campus. His social worker says he is participating more in their therapeutic groups and is more social. He is also participating in an additional “open art session”- where individuals can gather to freely paint or draw whatever they feel.
Ms. Faljean notes that people often confuse “art class or lessons” with art therapy. She clarifies, “Therapy has been cited as ‘an effective treatment for persons experiencing developmental, medical, educational, social, or psychological impairments’ (ATCB, 2019)…Through the selection of evidenced based art therapy interventions, theories, and assessments, the children at YCS are able to establish self awareness and improve overall mental health.”
“When this young man came into the group he was a newbie just like me. We went on this journey together,” adds Ms. Flajean.
Ms. Faljean earned a Master of Arts in Counseling with a Specialization in Art Therapy from Caldwell University. She currently holds the credentials of ATR-P (Provisional Registered Art Therapist) and NCC (National Certified Counselor) while working towards the LAC (Licensed Associate Counselor) licensure.
The art therapy program is made possible by a generous grant from the National Council of Jewish Women – Bergen Section.