IBHS Staff Members Express Themselves Through Art

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“Our staff has experienced a lot of ups and downs, just around coming back from COVID. They really appreciated the opportunity to create some positivity, because we focus so much on the negative. Philadelphia is a beautiful city. It can be so much more. There are so many people out there trying to make the city better.”

Jaime Miller, Administrative Director of RHD’s Intensive Behavioral Health Services (IBHS), is discussing a recent amazing artistic opportunity for the program’s staff.

Last December, IBHS held an art-making event at its office as part of the Gun Violence Initiative. This gave staff the opportunity to discuss and process their feelings surrounding the increasing violence in Philadelphia. The staff received artistic guidance and assistance from Miller’s cousin, Dionn Reneé Williams, a prolific and acclaimed artist. Her art was prominently included in the global marketing campaign for last year’s hit movie The Woman King, starring Viola Davis.

According to Miller, the event was an excellent opportunity for the staff  “to step away for a minute and do something artistic, as well as therapeutic. The kids and their families bring such heavy issues in with them every day, but our strong and resilient staff keeps their brave faces on for the kids. It was important to allow them to let their hair down and share their experiences with each other.”

One finished piece that the group worked on features terms like “Resilience,” “Strength,” “Enough,” and “Healing.” “These words are what come to mind when they sit down and think about community and gun violence, and when they’re sitting down and talking to the kids,” says Miller. This piece will be hung as a mural in IBHS’ section of RHD’s Philadelphia offices, located at 4700 Wissahickon Avenue.

IBHS is a partnership between RHD, Community Behavioral Health (CBH), and the School District of Philadelphia that provides therapeutic interventions to students and their families in North and Northwest Philadelphia. The goal of the program is to support the community with teaching skills and strategies to reduce and manage behaviors, while also increasing prosocial behavior of children. IBHS utilizes Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) as the primary evidence-based model for individual therapy. CBT aims to help people to identify and change unhelpful behaviors and thought patterns.

IBHS recently received a grant from CBH to help address the impact of community-involved violence (including gun violence) within schools where IBHS provides services. This initiative’s priority is to safeguard trauma response via IBHS, specifically in schools and zip codes that are most likely impacted by gun violence in Philadelphia. “They were looking for a program to connect with high-risk schools,” Miller explains. “We have proven ourselves — especially when working with children — to get things up and running, put in good work, and get good results.”

With this grant, the IBHS Program was able to implement RHD’s SMART (Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment) Model in its schools. The SMART Model takes places in spaces, developed with RHD’s Environmental Design Specialist Leah Forrest’s help, that are equipped with varied lighting options and sound/scent/motor/tactile stimulation tools to utilize during therapy sessions. IBHS received guidance through this process from Forrest and Clinical Directors for RHD’s Behavioral Health and Homelessness (BHH) Division, Susan Hunt and Pamela Kasinetz.

Miller hopes that IBHS can undertake similar art projects with students during early 2023, and that the students will be able to eventually create t-shirts featuring their designs. “Each school could have its own t-shirt. Being able to make a canvas is one thing. Having something you’re proud to wear and share with your family and the school would be even more significant for the students.”