Bella, a bright young woman who has received art therapy at Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA) for more than five years, recently shared her story for ITA’s annual appeal.
My mom brought me to ITA when I was 13. My anxiety was so intense that I couldn’t look anyone in the eye, hardly spoke, and wore earbuds 24/7 — at school, at home, even at the dinner table. I had no friends; I didn’t participate in life; my future was bleak. I had tried talk therapy, but it didn’t work because my anxiety prevented me from speaking during the sessions. My parents were desperate.
In my first session with Dr. Rosen, which my mom attended with me to help reduce my nervousness, I was encouraged to draw pictures. Wearing my earbuds, I hesitantly drew with a pencil. Pastels, markers, and many other art supplies were available, but pencils were erasable, and I was afraid to commit to other tools.
Over time, Dr. Rosen showed me how to use the pressure of my pencil to calm my anxiety. I learned how to deal with and live with my anxiety rather than be controlled by it. I also eventually tried other art supplies — paints, chalk, and more — and discovered how they helped me work through emotions when words failed me.
My first breakthrough happened when I came to ITA one day very upset about something that had happened at school. Dr. Rosen encouraged me to feel and express my anger. Together we smashed Styrofoam with a hammer and then turned it into art. I learned how to explore my anger, reframe it, and turn it into something beautiful.
My second breakthrough happened quickly after the first. I got to school and discovered I’d forgotten my earbuds. Thanks to art therapy and the skills I learned to soothe myself, I went through my day earbud-free, rather than call my mom in a panic to bring them to me. The next day I purposely left my earbuds at home.
Today, I have been earbud-free for more than three years. I joined my high school’s theater program, took acting classes, performed for an audience, and have worked on more than 30 plays. I have friends, successfully tackled college interviews, was accepted at my first-choice college, and earned a scholarship for leadership.
This spring, I stood in front of more than 130 people and shared my story at ITA’s annual fundraiser. Maybe you were there.
I started college a couple of months ago. I still work with Dr. Rosen, but I look forward to each day and know I can handle whatever life tosses at me.
Thanks to ITA and art therapy, I have a future. I have dreams and goals that I can achieve because I have already accomplished more than I imagined possible just five years ago.
I was lucky. My insurance covered the art therapy that enabled me to live my life fully. But 1 in 4 of ITA clients aren’t as fortunate and can’t afford creative arts therapy without ITA’s generous financial aid program.
Will you donate to ITA and give kids like me a chance to overcome their fears and pursue their dreams?
By giving to ITA today, you will immediately help other children create, grow, and heal with life-changing and life-saving creative arts therapies.
Every $70 you give provides one creative arts therapy session for someone like Bella.
When words failed Bella, creative arts therapies helped her heal and compose a new future. With your contribution, ITA will continue to create new possibilities for many families.