ARTC at Preferred Family Healthcare

“Beauty is out there.”

A child offered that simple message in a piece of artwork featuring a tree filled with colorful fall leaves for the ARTC program at Preferred Family Healthcare in Union.

“The theme was finding the positives and beauty in our surroundings and creating images that are calming and peaceful,” said Program Director Kasey Harlin, MA, CADC, CCDP-D.

ARTC, which stands of Achieving Resiliency, Responsibility and Recovery Through Creativity, has been offered in Union since 2009.

A supportive service for any youth 19 and under who is experiencing a high risk situation (mental health concerns, substance use, family or school issues etc.), ARTC is offered for free to children living in Franklin County, because it is funded by the Franklin County Children and Communities Resource Board or FCCRB.

Harlin created the program as a way to encourage children to give the therapy process a chance.

“A lot of times, kids in counseling grumble and say, ‘I don’t want to do that,’ ” Harlin told The Missourian back in 2014. “This program is designed to retain and engage them. By doing it with something that they like already or are interested in doing, it’s really taking counseling in the back door.

“I remember when I started as a therapist, confrontation was the way to go,” she said. “Confront the behavior.

“But when you back people into a corner, they come out fighting, and what I realized very quickly was that I needed to find a way to engage these kids that is not so scary and not so forceful. So that is where ARTC was born, out of a pragmatic need to engage kids at a level where they wanted to come.”

Back in the middle of March when schools across the area closed their doors and students began learning from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a lot of concern about what being away from friends and others would do to children’s psyche.

To help, Preferred Family Healthcare created an online community-wide extension of its ARTC program called Create Hope.

“We wanted to ensure that there were engaging and safe resources for Franklin County youth that could help with social emotional skill acquisition and maintenance,” said Harlin. “Staying at home can be very isolating for youth even in the best circumstances; however for those with limited resources and tumultuous family situations it can be frightening.”

How It Works

Create Hope is open to all Franklin County youth ages 19 and under, and there is no charge to participate. Currently group classes are offered online twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, from 1 to 2 p.m. for elementary students, and 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. for middle and high school students and older.

There is no registration necessary.

Using the Google meet link, youth sign into the designated room and time for their age group using a smart phone, tablet or computer.

For elementary students, the link is meet.google.com/chg-kfyj-dnu.

For middle school students and older, the link is meet.google.com/pxd-jswp-hhg.

“Our staff are on the other side of the screen and will facilitate a creative group project that uses basic supplies most people have on hand and related discussion for the designated time,” said Harlin, noting students who are in need of supplies can privately message the staff, who will hand deliver materials to their homes.

All of the students who join the group can see each other and the instructor, said Harlin. The students all complete the same project and participate in a related group discussion, speaking to each other and to the instructors.

The instructors are ARTC specialists Michelle McClain, who has been with Preferred Family Healthcare for seven years, and Jill McClain, who has been with Preferred Family Healthcare for more than eight years. Both have an interest in creative intervention and its role in helping youth make personal changes, said Harlin.

The students have completed zentangle art (a form of meditative doodling that has patterns, or tangles, put together to form a Zen-tangle) using paper and any type of writing utensil based on feelings related to COVID-19, Harlin said.

They also have completed a communication activity where students create drawings based on verbal instructions of either the instructor or another participant, such as “draw a line to the left” and “draw a circle on top of the line.”

The images shown here on this page were all created by students in the ARTC program.

“The staff leaders use a lot of abstract techniques like zentangle . . . to help youth that may not feel confident in their artistic ability to create cool art and thus help increase feelings of self efficacy and confidence,” said Harlin.

Will Offer Indefinitely

So far the response to the Create Hope online group art projects has been slow, but Preferred Family Healthcare plans to continue offering them indefinitely, while also offering its in-person services.

(Families also can inquire about admission for in-person individual services at Preferred Family Healthcare by emailing mimcclain@pfh.org or calling 314-518-7487.)

“We have currently only had about six youth attend in total and not all attend regularly,” said Harlin. “We feel strongly about being available for the youth of Franklin County communities in this difficult time, and therefore will continue to offer the service.

“The ARTC program has consistently shown benefits to assist youth with a variety of issues including improved school engagement, decreased anxiety, development of effective coping strategies and replacement behaviors that allow for youth to cease exhibiting self destructive behaviors, improved emotion regulation etc.”

Initially ARTC stood for Achieving Recovery Through Creativity, since the program was developed in the adolescent substance use disorder programming.

But the program’s success led to expanding it to prevention services as well. That led to adding “Resiliency” and “Responsibility” to the name around 2105.

For more information on Preferred Family Healthcare, go to pfh.org.

For more information on ARTC, people can contact Harlin at kharlin@pfh.org or 636-515-2794.