Expressive Therapy For Children (Art and Soul) Transcript

Rachel: It's nice to be able to just write something and have it as my own.

Erica: Now, this is heaven.

JJ Tellatiin: Yeah.

Erica: I feel good when I paint.

JJ Tellatiin: The child is often helped at a number of different levels. One, they're helped just by the very act of creating and the process of using your imagination as a tool.

One thing I have children do sometimes is draw a picture of themselves before they got sick, and then draw a picture of yourself now after you've gotten sick. And after the child's drawn this, we talk about the picture. I have them give me a title for the picture. I ask them questions about this drawing.

How is this you? What do you miss? After they do the drawing, it really leads into a lot of other parts of their story. So really a drawing or a painting leads into all sorts of then further awarenesses and inquiries with the child.

Rachel: This one is one of my favorites that I've done. It's called, Alone. And I was starting not to feel good. I was started to get sick. And I just expressed my feelings on paper. That person symbolizes me trying to get better, I guess. This is one of my favorites that I've done.

JJ Tellatiin: One of the great advantages of the expressive arts is when you work with a child, and you help them explore what's going on. You still need to connect what they've done with the family and the parents.

Everyone's so caught up in their own story and in their own drama, mixed with a huge drama of the illness, that they often aren't really aware. And everyone is trying to protect each other. So the arts really help give another tangible piece of creation that helps the family see.

Pam: She's not as quiet as she used to be. Not wanting to say anything to me or anyone else because she don't want us to get scared for her. But with this art therapy, she's just kind of figured she can let it out.

Rachel: After my sister passed away, I became closed up again and didn't really want to talk about it.

Speaker 5: Which one's JJ?

Brodie: That's JJ.

Speaker 5: That's JJ.

Rachel: Me and JJ did some more talking, opposed to just drawing after she died, and that helped. It kind of made me more open and able to talk to people. And I don't feel like I have to keep it inside and not tell anybody.

JJ Tellatiin: After I've spent time with the child, I'll take that drawing to the parents and share that with them, with the child's permission. I always say, I'm going to share this with your parents. Is that all right? And we usually go in together, because they're usually pretty excited about what they've just created, and they want to share it.

Taylor: I think that may have been a little hesitant at first about expressive therapy. I didn't want to think that I had problems or anything, I guess. My sister McKenzie died when I was little. I was probably six or, seven and my friend Caleb died last year. They both had brain tumors.

Once I was an expressive therapy, I found that it was great. I could express myself in art or music or journalism. So it was great.

Lisa: The expressive therapy gave Taylor coping skills, and I don't think that she knew she was learning them. But if you can talk to someone you've only known for a month or so about a huge family issue, it makes it maybe a little more normal, and you feel as if you can talk to others about it. Because it would be a very sad life if the past seven and a half years we would not have been able to talk about McKenzie or share stories about her.

JJ Tellatiin: We outside—

Erica: Looking at the sun.

JJ Tellatiin: Looking at the sun.

Brandi: He was a happy kid. With everything that he went through, he didn't let nothing bring him down. He was always happy. He was always happy, and everybody loved him.

Erica: The book, it's about lot of feelings that I miss and it's about sadness and happiness and dreams. It made me better, because I just feel excited when I write the book.

Pam: When people look at the artwork and everything else, they can see it that it is actually a person. There's a lot more to it than just a little 15-year-old who's kind of going through life. There's so much going on that she can express it a little bit better through her art, and everybody just always wants to see it, and be a part of it, and ask questions about it.

Lisa: Expressive therapy was huge. It made a very big impact for us. The one thing I recognized is that she smiled more. Taylor had survivor guilt. She often wondered why it was McKenzie that got sick and not her.

Taylor: I could express myself in a different way, and I found when I did my art, I wouldn't cry myself to sleep at night anymore, and I just felt better every day when I woke up in the morning. And it was something new, and I didn't think that it would work, but it definitely did.

JJ Tellatiin: Children that are referred to our program are never turned away because of financial restraints and constrictions. We almost always provide services to these children and their families, and that is the services of the entire team. The nurse, the chaplain, the social worker, the expressive arts therapist.

Lisa: Expressive therapy is not the traditional, two people sitting in a room, a person and a physician talking back and forth, it's very relaxed, and it's very real, and it works.

Pam: They've been here through good times and bad times, and they support everyone.

Taylor: I would tell other kids that we're considering expressive therapy to definitely try it. It's definitely worth a shot. I loved it and it helped me get through so much, and without it, I don't think I'd be who I am today.

Rachel: We're all able to talk about how we're feeling more. Again, I'm more open with them, and I'm not as guarded. to I think I'm more fun.

Lisa: Just to know that this option is available is a miracle.

Jennifer Koman: These stories and results are an incredible testament to the value of the Wings Expressive Therapy Program. That is why we've decided to put our time and our dollars behind this important work. With your support, more children and families could be served in our own community.

Jim and I believe in the power of using expressive therapy in whatever form to allow these young hearts to share what has hurt them so deeply.

Jim Koman: We hope that you too can see how the lives of children can be eased, and the pain minimized with the help of these dedicated people. But it can be done without your support. Jennifer and I are proud to establish the common expressive therapy endowment in 2009.

Our goal is to raise $1 million to permanently endow the expressive therapy program within Wings. It is our hope that no child that might benefit from these efforts is unable to receive this support. Please consider helping us reach our lofty goal, and continue to help the children of St. Louis. We can't do it without your help. Donations can be made by going to our website