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The Concordia Arts in Health Centre launches a pilot project bringing art therapy to newcomers

The collaborative initiative provides immigrants and refugees with affirmative and culturally relevant services
April 27, 2022
Young, smiling woman with long, straight, dark hair, green eyes and a grey top.
Project lead Jude Ibrahim: “Refugees face multi-faceted obstacles and barriers throughout their forced migration journey.”

The Concordia Arts in Health Centre (CAiHC) has launched its first pilot project in collaboration with the Refugee Centre, Montreal Therapy Centre (MTC) and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA).

Jude Ibrahim, a Concordia MA in art therapy student, is the lead behind the project, which she initiated as part of her practicum. The project provides immigrants and refugees with affirmative and culturally relevant mental-health services through the development of an art therapy internship partnership with the CAiHC, MTC and MMFA.

The Refugee Centre facilitates a direct referral system of new clients to these partnering sites.

The two main aspects included providing short-term, individual art therapy sessions for immigrants and refugees through the MTC, and museum-based group art therapy sessions for newcomer mothers at the MMFA. Clients from both programs also got free art kits delivered directly to their homes.

Concordia art therapy alumna Rebecca Murray (MFA 01) directs the MTC and Stephen Legari (BFA 96, MA 11) leads the MFFA’s art therapy program.

“Newcomers and refugees face multifaceted obstacles and barriers throughout their forced migration journey,” Ibrahim says. “The accumulation of these difficult experiences poses a tremendous strain on their mental health and well-being.”

Ibrahim adds that it becomes very difficult to navigate the health- and mental-health system through resettlement, especially when faced with insurance restrictions, financial difficulty, discrimination, cultural insensitivity, lack of information and various other barriers.

With these obstacles in mind, she wanted to use her practicum experience as an opportunity to support underserved populations and address the lack of accessibility and inclusivity in mental-health care.

“Designing and implementing the pilot project with the support of the CAiHC enabled me to expand art-therapy services to newcomers and address some of the barriers they face during post-migration,” Ibrahim says.

More experiential learning opportunities on the horizon

Emily Martin (MA 18), who works at the MTC, was Ibrahim’s community supervisor and oversaw this project. The two say the main aim of the pilot project is to help newcomers overcome long waitlists, insurance restrictions and financial barriers by providing reserved spots and a structured intake process between the partnering sites.

Ibrahim also hopes to provide these newcomers with further wellness resources in the community, such as referrals to sliding-scale art therapy services, community Art Hives and other mental-health services.

Heather McLaughlin (MA 04) is director of the newly formed CAiHC and Ibrahim’s faculty supervisor. She explains that the centre’s mission is to provide high-quality, accessible services from the Department of Creative Arts Therapies to the greater community as part of an innovative experiential learning opportunity for students.

“This pilot project was made possible thanks to the Raschkowan family foundation,” she explains.

“They have been a major and important ongoing support to the department. Their fund was also crucial to help launch the CAiHC by supporting the development and implementation of several community projects."

Ibrahim’s project will be wrapping up at the end of April as she prepares to graduate. She and Martin say their future hopes for this partnership and project include a sustainable model that can be replicated every year to ensure the continuity of its positive impact for newcomers in Montreal.

They also wish to build further opportunities for student art therapy internships in the upcoming years.

"The full launch of the CAiHC will definitely open more doors and opportunities for further collaborations between creative arts therapists and community partners to expand the reach and role of arts in health and wellness services,” Ibrahim says.

“As an art therapy student, it provided me the chance to design a practicum opportunity with organizations I value and an underserved population that I am devoted to supporting.”

McLaughlin notes that the CAiHC has created other pilot projects in art, music and drama therapy with different community partners this year and will soon see some in play therapy.

“In the summer of 2022, we will start our first onsite internship in our new clinic space within our department’s new home in Concordia’s ER Building,” she says. “Over the next academic year, we will continue with community partnership projects and expand to launch our services directly to the broader community in our centre’s clinic spaces.”

Find out more about
Concordia’s Department of Creative Arts Therapies.


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