Art therapy affords Optimist residents the opportunity to express
feelings through line, shape, symbol and color.  The language of
emotions is often foreign to our residents who were taught not to
cry, told to "shut up", and left to fend for themselves while they
witnessed the horrors of their youth. Art therapy gives form to
the intangible and abstract emotions felt and facilitates a
conversation about emotions.  The artwork is processed to
express feelings, find personal meaning, relate to peers, and to
reveal that which is yet to be spoken. When connecting with art,
personal meaning is revealed, and relating to peers occurs
which fosters empathy and attachment. 

Expressive Arts also includes pet therapy, gardening and yoga programs. 

Pet therapy provides the unconditional love and physical contact a dog can provide without the convention of traditional talk therapy. In this non-threatening setting, residents relax and naturally share what is on their mind. The dogs read the residents intuitively and respond to the emotions that surface by offering a reassuring lick, nuzzle or a moment of unconditional love.

Gardening provides the opportunity to appreciate and become sensitized to nature. Planting seeds teaches nurturance and patience while weeding encourages the importance of getting rid of what threatens the vitality of the plants. These metaphors and many others are processed so that residents can share their experience on a personal level and feel a connection to all that surrounds them. 

Yoga gives our residents the opportunity to begin to connect with their mind, body and spirit. Many of our residents react either in fight or flight modes and find many inappropriate ways to numb themselves from their pain. Breathing, paired with movement, becomes a meditative way of finding peace and sharing it with others.

For more information, please contact Optimist’s Art Therapist
Megan Barr at:

Music Therapy at Optimist is an evidence-based, innovative
and dynamic therapy designed specifically for the clinical
goals of our youth. The use of music provides non-threatening,
supportive and socially acceptable opportunities for our
residents to navigate healing from past traumas, repairing
and nourishing current relationships, and fostering hope for
their future. When working with adolescents, music is often
a primary form of self-expression and identification and is
therefore a natural motivator. Simply put, because music is
cool, it paves an easy inroad to connect with our teens.

Music Therapy groups are offered daily and are divided into 4 categories, depending on what are youth are most interested in: Music & Meditation, Lyrics & Listening, Percussion Discussion and Songwriting & Support.

Music & Meditation uses a wide variety of sound healing instruments paired with meditation and mindfulness techniques to help our residents learn coping skills for impulse control, self-regulation, and stress management.

Lyrics & Listening gives the residents opportunities to bring songs they relate to as a safe way to discuss and process difficult emotions and trauma. Residents are invited to write their own lyrics and share them over the instrumentals to help with releasing emotions, gaining insight and feeling supported.

Percussion Discussion uses
success-oriented percussion instruments and drumming as a tool for practicing healthy communication, exploring family dynamics, mood elevation and anger management.

Songwriting & Support utilizes modern technology to help residents learn about teamwork, leadership and support through the entire songwriting process. In this group, music is used as a metaphor for deeper processing. Group members work together to create a beat on the computer, decide the theme of the song by writing a group chorus and work on individual expression for the verses. Everything is recorded and pressed so the residents can walk away with a finished product as well as a sense of community and accomplishment.

In addition to the daily music therapy groups provided, residents also have access to Studio Time, during which they can record a song, learn an instrument, make a beat or listen to music; monthly Open Mic Nights, which is a fun community activity open to all residents and staff to perform for one another; OptiFellas, the Optimist choir which provides residents  with opportunities to perform on and off-campus; Music Mentors, which includes pairing residents with community volunteers to learn an instrument or sing while building a meaningful relationship; Heart-Math,  an evidence-based breathing technique and bio-feedback which the Music Therapist has trained all staff in;
and 1-on-1 music therapy sessions.

All of these creative opportunities provide our youth with new and positive outlets for their emotions and allow them a safe place for expression. The music therapy program is a vital part of the mental health services provided by Optimist.

For more information, please contact Optimist’s Music Therapist
Summer Lall at:

Optimist Youth Homes
& Family Services

6957 N. Figueroa St. Box 41-1076 Los Angeles, CA 90041-1076
Telephone: (323) 443-3175

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