The Department of Marital and Family Therapy has long partnered with the Red Cross and Save the Children, organizations dedicated to providing relief and security to survivors of disasters. Through its ART FIRST Trauma Training and Response Program, the Helen B. Landgarten Art Therapy Clinic sent a team of art therapists to Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. So when Hurricane Harvey hit in Houston this summer, Paige Asawa, the HBL Clinic Director, contacted Save the Children, seeking ways to provide assistance once again.
Within a week, Asawa had created a Memorandum of Understanding between LMU and Save the Children, and Brooke Pfaff, Nangee Morrison and Sharon Uy, all MFT graduates, responded to the disaster, traveling to Houston to work in FEMA shelters with impacted and displaced children and families.
These important partnerships give our graduates the unique opportunity to support impacted communities in the immediate aftermath of traumatic events and natural disasters. These experiences allow art therapists to bear witness to powerful moments of how the art assists people in processing their grief and accessing resilience, as well as recovering from wild fires, earthquakes, and other traumatic events.
Art therapists have a unique role to play in disaster work. Art-making can provide a non-verbal means to discharge acute stress that is inherent in disasters. . Every person who experiences a disaster or traumatic event, also known as critical incidents, has a story to tell that is often best told visually through the art.
“I encourage all art therapy students and faculty across the country to become Red Cross Volunteers, Save the Children – Child Friendly Spaces programmers and join as many disaster organizations that you can so that we can take our place in the disaster preparedness community,” said Asawa. “Three of our wonderful alumni were able travel to Houston Texas to support the children as programmers for Save the Children facilitating Child Friendly Spaces in FEMA shelters.”
Pictured, from left: Brooke Pfaff, Nangee Morrison, and Sharon Uy.