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Finding Heart in Our Personal Wilderness

June 10, 2017. By
wildnerness therapy art teens

“Art with Heart helped her know that her art was not just art, it was connected to her emotions. That will stay with her for her whole life.”

Dena Frandsen has been a friend to Art with Heart for almost two decades. She’s been an advisor as we’ve grown from holding self-portrait workshops with homeless teens to creating books and holding trainings, and she’s been a steadfast advisor the entire way.

As we create a curriculum for Ink About It, our book for those tough middle school years, Dena’s insight has been invaluable. She has helped align our curriculum to wilderness therapy experiences. Dena’s background in wilderness therapy helped us realize that Ink About It was a good match for this type of program, adding a creative element to the physical trek.

Dena is a therapist at Sound Mental Health, an organization Art with Heart is proud to partner with. She worked closely with CeeCee, who you might remember from a video we shared with you about their work together. Long after CeeCee was introduced to our books, she continued to use concepts she’d learned from them, telling herself to calm down and breathe, just like she’d learned in Draw It Outwildnerness therapy art teens Ink About It, when she was in stressful situations. Although Dena doesn’t see CeeCee anymore, she said, “Art with Heart helped her know that her art was not just art, it was connected to her emotions. That will stay with her for her whole life.”

Dena has also coordinated Art with Heart trainings for her staff at Sound Mental Health. After a recent training this spring, Dena said, “Kids have been in school since September, and by this time of year, stress, anxiety, and depression level always rise.” Art with Heart’s opportunity for training and self-care felt like a balm for the team. Dena described it as “an opportunity to step out of pressured work and into a day of discussion, art-making, and clinically deep work professionally about what they’d experienced as therapists.”

She’s used Ink About It most in middle schools, where she reports great success. Dena said, “I love that book because kids can doodle while we talk. I did a group with three girls, and it was so successful. They could doodle and color, and I opened it up to anything they wanted to talk about.” That group, composed of several African-American girls, led to some transformative discussion around the concept of gender roles, and what it meant to be an adult. The girls talked about feeling relegated to the “kids’ table”, and how they’d seen older siblings and relatives moving to the adult table and being treated differently once they had children.

Dena said that what she head in this discussion was the girls’ need for a “safe space to speak and really be heard.” After their discussions, Dena said she could see that the girls felt lighter and more understood. Using Ink About It helped the group articulate their feelings about growing up and the particular pressures they might not have thought to share otherwise.

Art with Heart is so lucky to have Dena in our corner as an advisor and friend. Be on the lookout for our wilderness therapy alignment and the rest of the Ink About It Leader’s Companion later this summer! We can’t wait to share even more of Dena’s wisdom with you.