May 11, 2023

Avenues for Justice’s Initiatives for Mental Health Care

To kickoff Mental Health Awareness month, we wanted to share some recent advances atAFJ regarding our onsite Mental Health services. 

Group Therapy

In April, AFJ implemented Power Principles for Surviving and Thriving, in collaboration with Muse &Grace Mental Health Counseling. This weekly group is a six-week series on empowerment and emotional regulation using literature and lyrics, art, play and drama therapy techniques. The idea for Group Therapy came about from the fact that many of our Participants are court mandated to participate in mental health wellness activities. Our Program team identified that, in addition to mental health services, our Participants would also greatly benefit from improved communication and teambuilding skills—both of which are important for building connections with people and community. 

Many of our Participants have experienced unhealthy relationships so the group sessions will allow them to share and unpack their trauma amongst their peers. Group therapy will also cover institutional trauma within the court system, institutional racism and generational trauma. We hope to empower our Participants with tools to acknowledge their lived experiences and help them process where their anger and anxieties stem from. 

“Group therapy is a powerful way to cultivate community and provide a space for exploring issues, experiences and perspective. By using the arts in our group therapy work, participants can gain a deeper understanding of their relationship to themselves, to loved ones and to the world. Engaging with a poem or a song or drawing something out can help to shift your view and even your behavior. It is critically important that we normalize mental wellness in our Black and Brown communities. Being self-aware, emotionally stable and fluent in feelings all contribute to our resilience.” ~Robin Stone of Muse & Grace  

Staff Training

Starting this week, AFJ Program staff will take part in a two-part trauma-informed training facilitated by psychotherapist Robin Stone of Muse & Grace. In order to best inform our Program staff on the wide range of needs that justice impacted populations have, Robin will guide them on how to respond in a trauma informed manner. This will include best practices of how to interact with Participants and how to engage them to participate in different activities. Our Court Advocates are already very knowledgeable about the immediate effects that the criminal justice system has on our Participants and their families, so the training will provide them with additional research-based tools on how to assist our Participants with mental health wellness.

The first part of the training will focus on the impact of trauma on the brain and provide psychoeducation on how to identify trauma. The second part will hone in on personal communication skills for Court Advocates to use when conflict or resistance presents itself. These skills will help garner compassionate responses, versus punishing responses, which our Participants have inevitably experienced within the court system. 

Parental Therapy

Avenues for Justice will also host a two-part workshop, “Navegando DosMundos, for our Spanish-speaking guardians and parents. The workshops will befacilitated by Silvia Espinal, the Director of the Youth Project and theImmigrant Latino Family, and faculty member at the Ackerman FamilyInstitute.Silvia will discuss the complexities of raising multi-cultural,justice impacted teens. The workshop will also be open to our neighbors in thecommunities we serve.


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