Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Music as a Form of Therapy

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 @ 10:40 AM
Angel_House_Music_3.jpgRachel Youngling (far left) leads a music class at Angel House in June. 

She banged on a drum, shook egg shakers and waved see-through scarves, all while singing songs about little Johnny Brown and Jack in the Box to the delight of six children, ranging from infants to toddlers at HAC’s Angel House, in early June.

Once a month, Rachel Youngling brings this colorful, playful scene to both the Hyannis shelter and Carriage House shelter in North Falmouth. She has been doing so since February 2015 as a volunteer, wanting to expose mothers and their children at the two shelters to the beauty and power of music. This past December, she received two grants – one from the Mid-Cape Cultural Council and the other from the Falmouth Cultural Council – that are funding her work this year.

Even if she did not receive the funding, Youngling admitted, “I would be doing this anyway… That’s how important I feel it is.”

Youngling, who owns Musical Discoveries in West Yarmouth, has been offering early childhood music education on Cape Cod for the past nine years. She can often be found inspiring children at area preschools and libraries. She expanded her presence to HAC’s homeless shelters last year after hearing WCAI host Mindy Todd talking about Angel House on “The Point” and realizing that those being served at the shelter could benefit from an exposure to music.

Building Bonds Through Music
During her sessions, she focuses on getting mothers and their children to connect with one another through play and creative exploration. Underlying it all is one goal: to have fun. Youngling does that “by keeping it exciting and bringing in rhythm instruments and scarves to promote rhythmic development,” she said. “Every class, they play along with a basket full of different items such as triangles, drums and tambourines.”

Though she serves as the facilitator, Youngling encourages the mothers to get involved and lead by example for their child. “Every child’s number one teacher is their parent,” she explained.

Angel_House_Music_5.jpg
The results at both shelters have been promising. “We’ve seen the women make an amazing connection with their children,” Youngling said.

Angel House Facility Director Lin Rohr said the classes have presented “a vibrant dynamic” in which mothers and their children have been able to playfully express themselves through movement and music. And Youngling’s underlying goal is being met as Rohr noted, “it is just fun.”

For those who have experienced significant trauma in their lives, Youngling said, it is important to have the types of moments she provides, if even for a short while. “To be able to find that space where you can be happy, even if it is just 45 minutes, it makes such a difference,” Youngling said. “That’s why I love what I do: the power to help each individual find some happiness and joy in their immediate situation.”

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Tags: Carriage House, Angel House, art therapy, music therapy, Rachel Youngling

Art Therapy at Angel House

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 @ 11:12 AM
Angel_House_3.jpgAngel House mothers and their children outside the Cultural Center of Cape Cod where their artwork was displayed last month. 

Art is not only an outlet for expression, it is a way for people to communicate and connect with one another. At HAC’s Angel House shelter, mothers and their children did just that thanks to a 12-week course that allowed them to tap into their creativity together.

The classes were taught by artist Brooke Eaton-Skea, a trained therapist, who met with mothers every Monday over the winter, educating them on some of the greats – Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and Piet Mondrian – that provided the inspiration and the foundation the women would use when working with their children. On Wednesdays, the mothers would then apply those lessons as they helped their children create their own collages, all under the watchful eye of Ms. Eaton-Skea.

Angel House director Lin Rohr said the exercise served as a form of art therapy for shelter clients. “There was no right or wrong way,” Rohr said. “It is another avenue for them to release the stress and the pressure they are going through, whether they are an adult or a child.”

The Cultural Center of Cape Cod funded the classes through its Rise and Shine program which provides art instruction to at-risk youth, directly tying into Angel House which serves mothers, and their children, overcoming addiction and homelessness.

The end result was an exhibit of the completed artwork held last month at the Cultural Center in South Yarmouth. There were over two dozen pieces that ranged from a depiction of Batman’s mask to an assortment of animal pictures cutout into a collage on poster board to a drawing of a locomotive making its way down train tracks.

Angel_House_Art1.jpgArt teacher Brooke Eaton-Skea in front of the Angel House artwork exhibited at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod last month. 

Ultimately, Rohr said, it was not about the finished product, but the journey the families took to get there.

Ms. Eaton-Skea’s favorite part was “seeing the women enjoying the children and enjoying the work.”

Wendy, who helped her nine-year-old son Dakota create the Batman piece, said she enjoyed the opportunity to bond with her child during the classes. “I think it was really nice for us to do something together,” she said.

Amy Neill, the director of education for the Cultural Center, said there is a real benefit to art for people that may have experienced trauma like those at Angel House. “It is just a good way to shut yourself down and find that happy place and use a different part of your mind,” she said. “Art education is very healthy for a person’s well-being.”

There is a good possibility Angel House mothers and their children will continue to benefit from this type of art therapy thanks to another Rise and Shine grant. And that, Ms. Eaton-Skea said, will only serve to help mothers looking for a positive outlet to channel their emotions. “Art is a great stress reliever,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I love it. And it’s a good model for their children who can take out a pen or pencil and draw if they feel stressed out.”

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Tags: Angel House, Cultural Center of Cape Cod, art therapy