Residents benefit from art therapy at Youthville’s Secure Care facility


Refocus. It’s often hard to do, but an essential part of life in stressful situations. The ability to refocus allows us to take a time out, clear our thoughts and then get back on track. For some this might mean going for a walk outside, hopping in a car for a scenic drive or maybe even just finding a quiet room to sit and relax.
For residents at Youthville’s Secure Care facility in Newton, Kansas, living with a dozen other teenage girls can bring on some stressful situations and the need to refocus. And while rooms were available just for this purpose, the view of bland tan walls didn’t exactly provide soothing scenery for the girls. But thanks to a grant from the Women’s Community Fund in Newton, the teens were given the opportunity to participate in a great project that resulted in a more inviting environment.
The grant provided funding for paint supplies and an art therapist with FCS Counseling to meet with the girls weekly to create murals in the two refocus rooms. The teens were involved at every stage including developing theme ideas for each room, drawing characters and scenes and then painting the final masterpiece. After initial brainstorming and discussion of ideas, the artistic portion of the project took place during one 90-minute session each week for seven months.
Art therapist Jennifer Primeaux, LPC, says she wanted the girls to be successful, so she helped residents choose a theme for each room that was familiar to them. The first room took on the four seasons with each wall depicting the different times of year. The second captures one their favorite TV shows, SpongeBob SquarePants.
“It was just a fun project,” explains Primeaux. “The girls were invested and worked hard. They also felt privileged to leave it for those who will be there after them.”
This community art therapy project did more than just give Secure Care residents more inviting walls at which to look. Overall it was an exciting project that the teens could look forward to each week. Some found the actual drawing and painting to be very soothing, and many found joy in sharing their artistic abilities with others.
Some found the project challenging in different ways: trying to make their creations look real or life-like, knowing what to paint or how to make their painting better, compromising personal wants to maintain a sense of community and even working through anger when their ideas or contributions were left behind.
“The girls enjoyed it. They owned it,” shares Allison Pate, program manager at Youthville’s Newton campus. “The project didn’t feel like therapy even though it was. … We never had any behavior problems while this was going on.”
So now when residents need a place to go to refocus, they have two colorful, lively places to choose from. Youthville employees say it’s proved to be a more calming experience for the girls. Some even like to sleep in the rooms when they need a break from their roommate.

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