Psychotherapy Groups

Art of Me: Art Therapy Psychotherapy Group 18+

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Art Therapy, Journaling Assignments, Mindfulness

Arts and Health

Calm Down and Get Your Zentangle On


Zentangle is a self-help art therapy practice to enhance relaxation and focus.






Zentangle® is known to many artists and craftivistas as a way to create structured designs through drawing various patterns. Sometimes mistakenly called “Zendoodling” or “tangle doodling,” Zentangling or tangling is actually a formalized process that defines itself as something other than mere doodling because of its theory and approach. Rick Roberts and Mary Thomas [] are the originators of the trademarked Zentangle method. Basically, it’s a specific way to draw images, most often in black pen on white paper. Zentangle has become an international phenomenon that now has applications in stress reduction, education, therapy and even motivational training.

Zentangle itself may be relatively new, but the basic principles involved are as old as the history of art. It includes ritual [a core practice in ancient and contemporary arts] and mirrors the symbols, designs and patterns of numerous cultures [Mayan, Maori, Celtic, and American Indian, for example] from ancient through present times. And like “doodling” it is based on a human behavior in which one refrains from planning and allows lines and shapes to unintentionally emerge.

There are numerous books on the formal method of Zentangle that will help you get started; these books provide numerous designs and show you how to create various patterns, step-by-step. Or simply search the Internet [especially Pinterest] to find instructions and inspiration for designs—then make up your own once you practice a few patterns. You really only need a few materials to create your designs: a pencil [used to mark out guidelines and to shade areas of designs], a black pen [Micron® pens are recommended, but you can also use the ubiquitous extra fine Sharpie® pen], and heavy white drawing paper or cardstock. The traditional practice of Zentangling uses 3 ½ inch square tiles made of special paper, but you can cut your own choice of paper into squares or completely “break the rules” and tangle on whatever type of paper you want to. If your children want to Zentangle along with you, they will find it easier to draw larger designs with bigger pens such as a fine point Sharpie® or large felt pens.

Why am I interested in Zentangle? While the process may look intricate, it is a deceptively simple pathway to relaxation and inner focus. In fact, proponents of the practice note that it has multiple benefits including calming an anxious mind, increasing self-confidence, and cultivating moment-to-moment awareness in a similar way as mindfulness meditation. Here are some other benefits:

Continue Reading… on Psychology Today.

Art Therapy, Other News, Psychology

Color Therapy & Healing – An Introduction

From Art Therapy Blog

It is everywhere you look, and everywhere you don’t look. You delight in its marvels both consciously and sub-consciously. You see color all the time, but how often do you think about its origins and effects? In a series of articles, we are going to explore this topic further. With this first article, we’ll go over some basics of color therapy and healing. You can read the next 2 articles here: 1) Color Meanings and 2) Color Psychology. You can also download our color meaning and symbolism charts.

Topics covered in this article:

  1. What is Color?
  2. An Introduction to Color Therapy
  3. A Brief History of Color Therapy

What is Color?

As most of you know, color is light and energy. Color is visible because it reflects, bends, and refracts through all kinds of particles, molecules and objects. There are a variety of wavelengths that light can be categorized, producing different types of light. Visible wavelengths fall approximately in the 390 to 750 nanometre range and is known as the visible spectrum. Other wavelengths and frequencies are associated with non-visible light such as x-rays & ultraviolet rays. Most people are aware of the effects of non-visible light, so it makes sense that visible light would also affect us.

One example of the way light can affect us is a mild form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which causes many people suffering during winters.

An Introduction to Color Therapy

Color therapy and healing (also known as chromotherapy or light therapy) is a type of holistic healing that uses the visible spectrum of light and color to affect a person’s mood and physical or mental health. Each color falls into a specific frequency and vibration, which many believe contribute to specific properties that can be used to affect the energy and frequencies within our bodies.

While it is common knowledge that light enters through our eyes, it’s important to note that light can also enter through our skin. Given the unique frequencies and vibrations of various colors, people believe that certain colors entering the body can activate hormones causing chemical reactions within the body, then influencing emotion and enabling the body to heal.

Colors are known to have an effect on people with brain disorders or people with emotional troubles. For example, the color blue can have a calming effect which can then result in lower blood pressure, whereas the color red might have the opposite effect. Green is another color that may be used to relax people who are emotionally unbalanced. Yellow, on the other hand, may be used to help invigorate people who might be suffering from depression. (We’ll dive deeper into specific colors in a future article.)

Alternative therapies also believe that a person’s aura contains different layers of light which can be used for cleansing and balancing. Knowing the colors in your aura can help you better understand your spirit, and thus help you better understand how to heal. Additionally, the colors surrounding you can also have various effects.

A Brief History of Color Therapy

It’s no mystery that the sun and its source of light (or lack thereof), can have a profound effect on us. Thousands of years ago, some countries began exploring color and its healing capabilities. Egypt, Greece and China are known for their forays into color healing and therapy. A few examples include:

  • Painting rooms different colors with the hopes of treating certain conditions.
  • Utilizing colors in nature in their surroundings (blue from skies, green from grass, etc.)
  • Healing rooms that utilized crystals to break up sunlight shining through.

There is evidence of people attempting to use color for healing and therapy from as far back as 2000 years. And it has gained in popularity throughout the years, with numerous books being written about it, including Johann Wolfgang Goethe who studied the physiological effects of color. As we mentioned though, many people are skeptical about using color and light for healing or therapy.

Stay tuned for upcoming articles over the next few weeks where we’ll introduce color meanings and symbolism, how we see color, and the various effects of specific colors.

Does color affect you? Let us know in the comments.

Creative Living - Reflections, Qoutes

Creative Power – Alfred Adler

“This creative power is a striving power; this creative power can be seen in different views, in the power of evolution, in the power of life, in the power which accomplishes the goal of an ideal completion to overcome the difficulties of life.” – Alfred AdlerHeatherCamera

Past Groups and Workshop

Creative Empowerment Group – Art Therapy, 2014

Creative Empowerment Group

Adults with severe mental illness.

by Heather Matson
Tuesday’s @10:30am
Location: Pathways Counseling Center
1919 University Ave, St Paul.

Generate unique ways to build resilience, increase self-esteem, achieve personal goals for well being and add to your coping toolbox. By utilizing weekly group support and a visual journal you can help combat stress and its effects to your mental health, not to mention learning new ways to live creatively.

EMDR, Psychology

About EMDR

About EMDR

Re-blogged from EMDR-MN

We all have a natural emotional healing process within us, just as we have a natural physical healing process. When we get a cut, our physical healing process heals it.  When emotionally upsetting things happen to us, we are usually able to get over them and go on with our lives.  When people say, “Time heals all wounds,” it’s not really time that does the healing, it’s our natural internal healing process at work over time.  Francine Shapiro, who developed EMDR, says that what is happening is the Adaptive Information Processing system, as she calls it, in the brain is reprocessing how traumatic material is stored so that the memory of the upsetting incident is integrated into the big picture of our lives and no longer causes upset.  Fortunately, most of the bad things that happen to us get processed naturally to what she calls “adaptive resolution,” so we can resiliently handle the new events of our lives.

However, a cut doesn’t always heal until it is cleaned and an antibiotic is applied.  Similarly, when something emotionally disturbing happens, the brain’s processing system isn’t always able, without help, to process it and put it into the perspective of our whole lives.  The disturbance can be either a major trauma, or repeated smaller life events that undermine our “okness” in the world. These traumatic events get stored in isolated pockets in our neurological system, with the original picture, thoughts, feelings and body sensations.  They are like little land mines waiting to go off, and when something triggers them, they can flood into the present, making us overreact to the current situation.

Sometimes we don’t even realize what is happening.  The picture of the event may not come to us consciously, yet suddenly we feel unworthy, or hopeless, or fearful, or nauseous and don’t even realize that we are being flooded with dysfunctionally stored material from the past.  We may behave in ways we later wish we hadn’t and not fully understand why.   The EMDR approach knows you aren’t reacting that way on purpose; the triggered memories are the basis of your actions that don’t fit with the present you.

Just as an antibiotic salve can help heal a cut, EMDR can help the brain’s processing system heal emotional wounds.  It’s still your own internal process doing the healing; EMDR just “jump starts” it when necessary and helps it work faster.  Once the isolated “land mine” of trauma has been reprocessed with the help of EMDR, it is neutralized so it won’t go off and flood into the present anymore.  It’s integrated into the big picture of your life, so it feels like it’s over and it doesn’t have the power to derail you from your present okness.

The eye movements, or other bilateral stimulation, seem to stimulate the information and allow the brain to reprocess the situation.  This may be what is happening with the rapid eye movements of dream sleep.  Dreams help integrate the events of the day into the big picture of memories in the brain.  You have probably heard people say, when you are upset about something, “Sleep on it; it will feel better in the morning.”  It would be more accurate to say, “Dream on it.”  It usually does feel better in the morning, because it is integrated during dream sleep.  When dreams aren’t enough, EMDR helps integrate, or metabolize, dysfunctionally stored material from the past so it doesn’t cause distress in the present.  After EMDR the memory is literally stored differently in the brain.  Scientific SPECT scans show differences in activation in the brain when people think about a trauma before and after EMDR.  It is your own brain doing the healing and you are the one in control.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., based on an experience she had in 1987 when she was a psychology graduate student in California.  She was walking in a park, focusing on some troubling thoughts when her eyes spontaneously started rapidly darting back and forth.  When she again focused on the disturbing thoughts, they were no longer troubling.

She was fascinated and continued to experiment, first with herself, then with approximately 70 friends and colleagues.  She developed a complex multi-faceted process which incorporated eye movements  and she designed a controlled research study with Vietnam veterans and rape victims.  She was encouraged by the remarkably rapid success she continued to find with even these severe cases.  PTSD symptoms related to a single trauma were eliminated or dramatically reduced within three sessions. More controlled treatment outcome studies have been done to date on EMDR than on any other method used in the treatment of PTSD. Subsequent research has also shown EMDR to be effective with other mental health diagnoses.

EMDR is much more than eye movements (in fact tones back and forth in the ears or pulses in the hands can substitute for the eye movements).  It integrates pictures, beliefs, emotions and body sensations in the processing of traumatic memories, current anxieties, or future fears.  Dr. Shapiro has developed an Accelerated Information Processing (AIP) model to explain the rapid results achieved with EMDR, which can be briefly summarized as follows:

  1. We have an inherent information processing system (an emotional healing system) that is designed to integrate our life experiences and maintain a state of mental health, much as we have healing processes to maintain our physical health.  One theory is that the rapid eye movements in REM sleep are one way we normally use this emotional healing system to put traumas and disappointments into the bigger picture so they are not so distressing; however, some events are apparently too traumatic for REM sleep to successfully process.  EMDR is a way to give the emotional healing system a boost.
  2. Most mental health diagnoses stem from earlier disturbing or traumatic life experiences which are not adequately processed and are trapped in the nervous system along with the images, beliefs, emotions and body sensations that were there at the time of the trauma.  These experiences become stuck in isolated pockets and can be triggered by something that happens in the present, causing the individual to re-experience the upsetting event, or aspects of it. It’s kind of like a little land mine waiting to go off, and it can be detonated over and over again.  EMDR neutralizes the stuck trauma so it feels like it’s past, not flooding into the present.  It can then be recalled without disturbance.
  3. In EMDR a person is asked to focus on an unprocessed memory of an upsetting event, including pictures, beliefs, emotions and body reactions.  Then, the eye movements (or other rapid back and forth stimulation) “jump-starts” the emotional healing system and the old, stuck material is integrated into the person’s whole life as it is stored in the brain, and it loses the power to be so upsetting.  The EMDR process relieves distress, brings about new insights, and allows the person to feel better about him/herself.  The past feels like the past and the person can be more fully in touch with resources, strengths, and choices in the present.

EMDR involves an eight-phase process: 

  1. History taking and treatment planning:  getting the client’s history and goals and planning which traumas to process and in what order.
  2. Preparation:  explaining EMDR;  creating ways to be sure the client is calm before leaving a session, which can also be used between sessions if needed; customizing the bilateral (back and forth) stimulation (the speed etc. of the eye movements, tones or pulses).
  3. Assessment:  helping the client focus on an image of the upsetting event, including the picture, the negative belief, the emotions and the body sensations.  The client is also asked what s/he would like to believe about him/herself when thinking about the incident. The client rates the level of distress from 0-10 and the level of  felt truth of the positive belief on a scale from 1-7.
  4. Reprocessing:  Using the bilateral stimulation to process the stuck trauma.  The client holds the targeted incident in mind (including picture, negative belief, and body sensations) and the eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) begin.  At this point the client just lets the process go where it goes and the emotional healing system kicks in and does the work.  The stuck traumatic information links up with resources and more helpful information from the client’s present life.  The therapist stops periodically and asks for feedback and then the processing continues until the client can think of the incident without distress.  Often new insights also occur.  If the client gets stuck during the reprocessing, the therapist can use an interweave to get the movement going again.
  5. Installation:  strengthening the positive belief.  The eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used to “install” the positive belief until it feels true in the present, even when the client is thinking about the old traumatic incident.
  6. Body scan:  scanning the body and processing any discomfort that remains when thinking about the original incident.
  7. Closure:  explaining what to expect and how to handle what might come up between sessions.
  8. Reevaluation:  checking again at the beginning of the next session, and possibly in  later sessions, to be sure that the distress is still gone and the positive belief still feels true.

In addition to the above basic trauma protocol, several specialized protocols have been developed to deal with current anxiety and behavior, phobias, recent traumatic events, excessive grief, illness and somatic disorders, addictions, peak performance, and resource installation and development.  Interventions have also been designed to enhance effectiveness when the basic protocols alone are not sufficient.

For more information on EMDR, you can read Dr. Francine Shapiro’s textbook  EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, second edition, or her latest book Getting Past Your Past.  Dozens of other books have been written on EMDR as well. The EMDR Institute has a very informative website at and the EMDR International Association website is

Art Therapy, School Art Therapy

Making a Case for Art Therapy in MN Schools

video and full article at this link…

Mentally troubled students overwhelm schools

  • Article by: Jeffrey Meitrodt
  • Star Tribune
  • July 21, 2013 – 7:26 AM

The cigarette lighter sat on the family computer when Gianni awoke.

He said that a voice in his head, the one he sometimes calls Mr. Angry, told him to bring it to school — and threatened to punish him if he didn’t.

Hours later, after getting angry with his teacher, Gianni set fire to a bulletin board outside a special education classroom. The blaze was quickly doused with water bottles, but school officials had him arrested. He was charged with arson.

Gianni, who has been seeing a psychologist since the age of 3, spent the next 37 days in juvenile detention, five times longer than the typical adolescent accused of a crime in Ramsey County.

“I knew setting a fire was bad, but I didn’t belong in there,” said Gianni, who turned 15 while incarcerated. “Sometimes, my brain thinks of horrible things I don’t want to do.”

Gianni is one of thousands of students afflicted with serious mental health problems who are flooding into Minnesota schools because they have nowhere else to go.

Their complex needs are bringing huge and at times dangerous challenges to special education classrooms that are already struggling to handle increasing numbers of students with other handicaps, including multiple disabilities.

In an era of tight budgets, Minnesota has retreated from more intensive adolescent mental health treatment options, at times leaving schools as a setting of last resort for students with problems ranging from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder. And even as special education teachers and specialists try to help, many are now working forever on edge — fearful that recurring outbursts by deeply troubled students could injure them or other children.

“Schools are in over their heads with mental health,” said Mark Kuppe, CEO of Canvas Health, a nonprofit company that works with schools to provide mental health services. “They think they can hire a few social workers and school psychologists to deal with this, but the reality is those folks aren’t trained in the clinical work.”

Brenda Cassellius, commissioner of the Minnesota Education Department, said she’s hearing a growing chorus of complaints from school districts that feel overwhelmed by students’ mental health needs. Schools need more mental health professionals, she said, but can’t afford to hire them.

“We just can’t meet the demand,” Cassellius said.

Superintendent Connie Hayes said the problem has reached “crisis” proportions even at schools such as hers in Intermediate District 916 in the northeast metro that are designed to handle children with the worst behavioral problems. A decade ago, she said, students with mental illness were rare. Now 75 percent of her students have mental health issues.

“It’s like night and day,” she said.

Her district does what it can to provide clinical services with limited resources, Hayes said.“But it simply is not enough.”

‘Can’t take responsibility’

Gianni set his first fire at the age of 6.

His mother, Shameka Griffin, remembers her son coming into her bedroom and waking her up about 3 a.m.

“Something really bad is happening,” he told her.

Flames crawled up the wall from his bed. Gianni, who has trouble sleeping, had found leftover sparklers in a closet and a lighter in her purse.

Shameka put out the fire before it spread beyond Gianni’s room. But their landlord evicted them.

“Gianni can’t take responsibility for his actions. He is not mentally stable enough to do that,” said Shameka, who decided to speak out about her son’s mental health history because she believes the state and the school system have failed him. She gave the Star Tribune access to his psychiatric and school records and authorized caregivers and others to discuss his case.

Gianni’s odyssey through Minnesota’s public school system shows how children with mental health issues can be lost in a system geared to help students with obvious physical and cognitive handicaps. Their care comes from a patchwork of services through schools, state and local agencies and private insurance — often with little coordination.

“Who is responsible for what?” asked Curt Haats, chief financial officer for Hennepin County Human Services. “You have a lot of parties that want to do good, but they all have some piece of the accountability. If everyone is accountable, then no one is.”

17 different drugs

Gianni looks like a normal teenager, but he is not. Over the years he has been diagnosed with psychotic disorder, bipolar disorder and pervasive development disorder. He and his 4-year-old brother both have autism.

“People think I’m not a right person, and autism is just an excuse for me to get into trouble, but it’s not,” Gianni said. “It is something deep inside of me. It’s been there for 15 years.”

Gianni was repeatedly suspended from kindergarten for outbursts. Doctors began medicating him in first grade, when he was diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disorders and began receiving special education services.

Since then, he’s been on 17 different drugs, including antipsychotic medications and mood stabilizers. Reports show the drugs often helped him do better in school, but some produced frightening side effects.

When he was 9, Gianni spent three weeks in the psych unit at Fairview Riverside Hospital after he began talking on an imaginary phone and “voicing homicidal threats against his family and others,” according to a hospital report. Doctors blamed the hallucinations on a change in medications.

When he returned to Minneapolis schools, he was removed from mainstream classes and put in a room with other students with autism. He received no mental health services at school but was seeing a psychiatrist through Shameka’s insurance plan.

The next year, Mr. Angry became a regular companion.

In April 2009, Gianni wandered up to a neighbor working on a truck in his driveway. Gianni picked up a hammer and hit the man in the back of the head.

“He didn’t say hi, bye or anything,” the man told police. He required seven stitches but sustained no serious injuries.

Gianni could not explain what provoked the attack and cried when an officer pressed him for answers. He later told a therapist that his left hand “just did it” because “Mr. Angry” told him to.

Gianni was charged with assault, but the case was dropped months later when he was found mentally incompetent, county records show.

The incident “scared me to my core,” Shameka said. She decided to pull him from public school and enroll him in a residential treatment center, where he could undergo psychotherapy daily and be monitored 24 hours a day. She wanted her son “somewhere he could be safe.”

She was finalizing arrangements when police came to question Gianni again. They wanted to know whether he was the person seen trying to start a fire in a vacant garage. Once again, he confessed.

Gianni was immediately placed at St. Joseph’s Home for Children, which charged $2,000 a month for his long-term treatment. The costs were covered by Shameka’s insurance from her $30-an-hour job as a hospital X-ray technician.

But Gianni’s yearlong stay at St. Joe’s took a heavy toll. Constant visits with her son made Shameka late for work so often that she was fired. Three years later, she still hasn’t been able to find full-time employment.

She now depends on public programs for Gianni’s treatment.

Changing directions

Schools are not equipped to deal with students like Gianni, superintendents say.

Ten years ago, a child with his mental and behavioral history might have been put in a group home with other mentally ill children and attended a day-treatment program for academic instruction and mental health services.

But in an attempt to keep children out of pricey treatment centers and hospitals, Minnesota changed directions in the past decade, pouring millions of dollars into early-intervention programs while cutting funding for longer-term care. The state now serves twice as many children as 10 years ago — 55,000 in 2010, but spending per child is down 47 percent.

“The average age of the children we’re serving has been going down,” said Chuck Johnson, deputy commissioner for policy and operations at the state Department of Human Services. “We’re getting ahead of the problems earlier.”

But, some top educators say, the state did not account for the needs of students with more serious mental problems. Those children now sometimes have no place to go for help when they break down, turning schools across Minnesota into de facto treatment centers.

The number of beds at residential treatment centers in the state has fallen 27 percent in the past decade. Counties also have cut funding for day-treatment care by 55 percent since 2007.

“When I came here, Minnesota had a reputation as one of the best places to go if you needed mental health services,” said Dr. Carrie Borchardt, who has been working as a child psychiatrist in Minnesota since 1983 and with Gianni since he was 9. “And I don’t think that’s true anymore. We are providing much less.”

Schools, which once referred difficult cases to expensive day-treatment programs, have also scaled back. Canvas Health stopped getting referrals from six suburban districts in recent years, Kuppe said.

Lifespan, another day-treatment provider, was cut by several of the state’s largest school districts — including Minneapolis, St. Paul and Anoka-Hennepin — after years of treating their students.

Liz Keenan, special education director in St. Paul, acknowledged that her district can’t provide the same treatment children receive at Lifespan, which typically provides three hours of individual and group counseling per day. St. Paul paid Lifespan about $2,500 per month for each student.

“It comes back to funding,” Keenan said. “If the schools have to absorb the costs, it becomes too difficult to sustain it.”

Anne Klein, whose daughter has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression, said public schools don’t do enough to address children’s mental health. One school worker was openly skeptical about her daughter’s condition, remarking in an e-mail: “Do you ever get the feeling that this whole mental health issue is a bunch of baloney???”

“It was just so wrong,” said Klein, whose family paid to send the girl to Lifespan for nine months after the school district refused to cover the bills. Klein said Lifespan “saved her [daughter’s] life.”

Threats at school

After a year at St. Joe’s, Gianni started seventh grade in a new school.

He was transferred to District 916, which takes children whose behaviors are too extreme for regular schools. In its evaluation, the district found Gianni was highly maladjusted and was likely to have conduct problems. He was assigned a full-time aide and was to meet with a school psychologist three times a week in 50-minute counseling sessions.

Gianni’s first year at the school was rough. Every day, he threatened to hurt and even kill other students, even though most of his anger was directed at himself, kicking furniture or hitting a wall. In his first five months, he was locked in the seclusion room three times and physically restrained once, school records show.

In a December 2010 e-mail to Gianni’s Anoka County social worker, Shameka pleaded for advice, saying her son “may not be ready for school and that perhaps a more psychiatric setup would be more appropriate for him.”

The social worker questioned the need for an out-of-home placement, suggesting that “maybe there have been too many changes within the last few months.” Instead, the county arranged for more therapeutic services. In July, the social worker noted in her log that the sessions were not going well because Gianni “is fighting it.”

The school district’s response to Gianni’s escalating behavior was to reduce his mental health services. In his second year, he received just 45 minutes of in-school therapy a week from a social worker, school records show. County and school officials declined to comment on Gianni’s care.

Gianni’s behavior grew worse. In December 2011, school workers started searching Gianni daily because he was bringing things to class that could injure others, including a broken CD.

He was suspended the next month after he tried to hit another student with a heavy book and threatened to “blow your frickin’ head off,” school records show.

The school called local police, who charged Gianni with making “terroristic threats” and placed him in juvenile detention overnight. The charges were later dismissed when Gianni was found mentally incompetent.

District 916 officials recommended that he be removed from school and enrolled in a day-treatment program, according to the social worker’s log. The move would have given Gianni three hours of therapy a day.

The county rejected the plan, “due to his aggression,” the social worker wrote.

For the rest of that school year, Gianni attended just a half day of school in his own classroom with his own teacher, isolated from other students because of “his escalating behaviors and concerns regarding his mental health,” school records show. He went home each day at 11:30 a.m.

Without commenting specifically on Gianni’s case, Superintendent Hayes noted that her district and two others that specialize in high-needs children routinely wind up with students who have been kicked out of residential treatment or day treatment for aggressive behavior.

“It begs the question: If they are too aggressive for a mental health treatment environment, why is a school environment the best place?” Hayes asked in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. “Our state has allowed a system to develop, due to a lack of planning at the policy level, for schools to be the default placement for these seriously mentally ill students — without any planning, preparation, collaboration or resources to do so successfully.”

Mr. Angry resurfaces

Worried the school was failing Gianni, Shameka asked the district to move him. At his new school, administrators allowed him back into a classroom with six other disabled students for the 2012-13 school year, despite concerns about his mental health problems. Gianni’s therapeutic sessions were reduced to one 30-minute session weekly with a social worker.

Workers at the Little Canada school no longer searched his pockets and backpack, Shameka said.

Initially, at least, Gianni stayed out of trouble. Even when a classmate insulted him with a racial epithet, he did not become violent, records show. A January report shows that Gianni was making adequate progress on his academic and mental health goals.

Then, on April 16, Mr. Angry spoke up again, demanding that Gianni bring the lighter to school. Gianni admitted he used it to set fire to the bulletin board. The school was evacuated, frightening dozens of disabled kids.

“If they had just checked my pocket, all of this wouldn’t have happened,” he said in an interview with the Star Tribune.

School officials agreed with police that Gianni should be arrested because of the “severe” nature of the incident, police records show.

Gianni spent the next five weeks in juvenile detention. His barren cell had a concrete bed and steel toilet.

Meg Kane, Gianni’s lawyer, tried to move him into a residential treatment center, but nobody had any vacancies and Anoka County social workers refused to help, citing “liability issues,” she said. Anoka County officials declined to comment.

Gianni was denied video games and other items that calm him. His mother could visit only twice a week. He said he was bullied constantly.

“It was pretty scary,” he said. “I felt like I was in there for 50 years.”

Shameka said Ramsey County officials told her Gianni had three psychotic episodes and threatened suicide after an incident on the basketball court. She said her son, who rarely smiles or shows emotion, cried on his 15th birthday.

Gianni’s teachers and therapists wrote letters to the judge pleading for Gianni to be sent to a treatment facility or released to his mother. On May 23, after once again deciding that Gianni was mentally incompetent to face criminal charges, a judge let him go.

“That’s unacceptable,” DHS’s Johnson said of Gianni’s ordeal.. “We shouldn’t have kids going into the juvenile justice system who don’t belong there.”

Sent to Utah for help

Children across the state are waiting as long as a year for their first appointment with a psychiatrist. If a young person has a crisis, they may be forced to go out of the state for help because there aren’t enough beds here.

“Our state is not capable of managing the complex mental health problems that we have here,” said Dr. George Realmuto, medical director at the state mental hospital in Willmar.

Realmuto recently had to send a boy from Hennepin County to Utah because he couldn’t find a residential treatment center able to take him anywhere in Minnesota. “How is it that Utah has more services than we do?” he asked.

In an interview, senior DHS officials conceded the move from institutional care has created a service “gap” for at least 100 students with behavioral problems too intense for schools or for existing state facilities. Minnesota may have to create a new type of facility that would provide intensive psychiatric care to such students for as long as three months, as well as offer other services, said Glenace Edwall, the department’s director of children’s mental health services.

“We want to acknowledge that we have a ways to go in creating and funding the children’s mental health system,” Edwall said.

Edwall noted the department recently received legislative approval to double a program that pays for school-based mental health services, but, department officials said, the nearly $10 million in funding for 2015 will still be $22.3 million short of what is needed.

Cassellius, the education commissioner, said she will meet with top officials at other state agencies — including corrections and Human Services — to address the crisis.

“Is this a problem because there are not enough beds on the DHS side, or is this a problem of adjudication (of juvenile criminal charges), or is this a problem of special ed in schools?” asked Cassellius. “How do we get at the root cause instead of coming up with a Band-Aid solution?”

Educators say the state has to rethink its approach to mental health and figure out which students belong in settings other than schools.

“We are teachers. We are counselors,” Hayes said. “We don’t provide medical, clinical therapy. That is not the mission of schools.”

Alone at his party

Gianni brandishes a makeshift sword alone in his back yard, battling imaginary enemies.

“The darkness will take hold of you,” he warns in an ominous tone. “No, it won’t,” he shouts in response, his voice spiraling higher.

Inside, his homecoming party is in full swing. Friends and relatives overtake the living room of the family’s modest home in Fridley, as Shameka, amid tears of relief, rushes to feed them some of Gianni’s favorite foods: hot dogs, steak, zucchini and asparagus.

Gianni flits through the party, pausing just long enough to accept an occasional hug or friendly question before retreating to his bedroom and his video games.

“He’s going to get tired of this,” says his grandmother, as Gianni wipes her kiss off his face.

Gianni is free, but the fallout from his jail time remains. His annual state aid of $30,000 of mental health services was terminated because he spent 30 days in juvenile detention, a disqualifying event.

Shameka is worried by her son’s new belief that he might belong in jail. Gianni’s psychiatrist said the extended jail time could permanently damage the boy. “He could develop worse anxiety or obsessions,” Borchardt said.

Shameka is still angry that school officials had her son arrested and that it took so long to free him. She is not sure where to turn or what to do about school come fall, even though she said the principal wants him back.

“To be honest, I don’t think the district is capable of handling Gianni.”

Jeffrey Meitrodt • 612-673-4132

© 2013 Star Tribune

Art Therapy, Creative Living - Reflections

Life Transitions

Are you currently in a life transition? Finishing school? Changing careers? Separation or divorce from partner? Having a baby?  Recovering from substance use or an accident? Many of us are ‘creatures of habit’ making transitions hard.  It is a type of grieving process of our former lives.  If we shed our former lives but hold on to the corpses our transformation is not complete and we become stuck… Or hold on to the old habits and routines.  Honoring your grief of your former life and allowing it to return to the earth your will feel free of the weight of your corpses.  Rejoice and embrace the life set out in front of you.


“Murder of Crows”

© Heather Matson 2011

Exploring life transitions through art therapy can be a powerful tool.  Bringing insight and resolution, making the process of transition easier.


“Honoring My Grief” – in session

© Heather Matson 2013

Creative Living - Reflections, Psychology

Both Picture and Artist

Both Picture and Artist.

Are we a product of our environment? Or is our environment a product of our perceptions?  Sure when we are born into this world we are at the mercy of the environment and people in our lives.  Naturally we began by depending on others for shelter, nourishment and love. However, we are not a blank slate.  We enter this world with words of good intention written on our soul that will be instrumental in shaping our personally.  As our world becomes bigger and we become influenced by other social groups like school and friends we begin to realize how we could influence the outcome of our world, sometimes by trial and error.

We can take the skills we have learned from our family to navigate through our world, which can be good or bad.  All events that have helped in shaping our world have had a positive outcome.  No matter how horrible the event there is always something positive to hold on to that helps get us through.  Sometimes the positive is hard to find but if you look, you will find it.   As adults we have to remember we are in control and can make change happen.

Focusing on doubt, loss, or failure only creates more of the same.  You are in control of how you live your life, of how you perceive your world, and how you tell your story.  Live your life with your in born good intentions, not with the doubts you gathered along the way.  Retell your edited story.  Forgive or understand yourself for hurting others, and others who hurt you.  Learn to let go of holding the pain of others; it is not yours to carry.

The world we experience is the world we have created for ourselves.  By knowing this we can make changes.  First, you have to retell your story more positively and with understanding. Focus on the language you use daily. Secondly, you have to believe it to be true.  Believe that you can find a partner that does not end in divorce or believe you can have a successful career.  The more you can focus on your good intentions and desires in this world and not your worries and doubts you will discover more success and happiness.

Art therapy can be instrumental in training the brain, our emotions and our beliefs about our personal perceptions of the world to more favorable outcomes. There are lessons to be learned in the darkness. Finding a balance with our light and dark aspects of our personalities will help find everyday balance.

English: Alfred Adler Česky: Rakouský lékař a ...
English: Alfred Adler Česky: Rakouský lékař a fyzioterapeut Alfred Adler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To quote Alfred Adler, “The individual is thus both the picture and the artist.  He is the artist of his own personality, but as an artist he is neither an infallible worker nor a person with a complete understanding of mind and body; he is rather a weak, extremely fallible, and imperfect human being.” (The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler, 1956. Ansbacher & Ansbacher)