HELMS spreads the culture of art therapy | News, Sports, Jobs

YOUNGSTOWN — The Ryan Giambattista HELMS Foundation will significantly expand its Ryan Giambattista Art Therapy Program thanks to an outpouring of $127,500 in grants from several local organizations.

With increased funding, President Terri DiGennaro seeks to expand the culture of art therapy to adults, seniors and youth in Youngstown.

The grants will be used to hire more therapists and maintain the resources needed for increased service.

“We’re entering into something that started from nothing,” DiGennaro said. “All of this funding gives us what the foundation needs to provide therapy.”

The foundation, based in Boardman, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to honor the late artist’s life and vision. Its mission is to provide community art therapy services in collaboration and partnership with groups, individuals, social service agencies, educational institutions and service providers in the field of mental health, developmental and physical disabilities, according to its website.

DiGennaro’s son, Giambattista, 23, died in Struthers in July 2015.

“You could see when times were tougher how much that showed through his art,” she said. “I knew when he was going to create something.”

She added, “Artists have a totally different mindset; they work differently. They tap into a creative side that most people don’t have.

Art therapy is a type of psychotherapy that uses the creative process as a form of communication – where instead of talking to a counselor, clients can draw their feelings and from there they are analyzed by trained therapists.

Grants were provided by Western Reserve Health Foundation, Trumbull Memorial Health Foundation, The Mahoning County Mental Health & Recovery Board, Arnett Family Fund, The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, Frances Schermer Charitable Trust, William Swanston Charitable Fund and The Youngstown. Foundation.


The organizations that will adapt the art therapy programs are: Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center; YWCA of Youngstown and Warren; Yellow brick location; Casa Madre; ACLD Learning Center; Potential Development School for Autism; Meridian Healthcare; Easter stamps; and Compass Family and Community Services.

The types of therapies offered will depend on the development treatment plans of each participating organization.

This could mean helping reunite families dealing with trauma and physical or mental health needs in adults and youth, among many areas of treatment.

“There is not a single area where art therapy cannot be used. We will work with patients with dementia, high functioning autism or low functioning. Art therapy encompasses everything,” DiGennaro said.

She said the majority of services offered will begin with hour-long group therapy sessions with about six to eight people per group.


Approximately 1,065 group sessions will be conducted by art therapists who have all earned a master’s degree in art therapy, as well as additional certifications.

One of the art therapists will be Sara Stein, 25, a Cleveland native who graduated in fine arts from Kent State University with a minor in psychology. She also obtained her master’s degree in art therapy at the Collège des Ursulines.

Describing the initial sessions, Stein said therapists will work to establish a “therapeutic bond” with the client similar to a consultation, where it is measured where the client is at in their healing.

Beginning with a 30-40 minute art task, the therapist pays close attention to what their client is drawing and how they go about drawing it.

Art therapists will observe how clients interact with art – seeking insight into who the individual is.

“The color is huge, the shape of the lines and the variations,” Stein said. “There are a lot of evaluations on the modes of practice of art therapy, the research of different elements of the art is important.”

The final 20 minutes will allow groups to reflect and share their work – if they wish – which, in turn, helps to inform the therapist of the needs of the group.

For the therapist, part of the sessions is making adjustments.

“If the band comes to me about something that works best for them, I’ll respond with what would work for them,” Stein said.

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