Mateo came to Project CHILD at Center for Hope and Safety’s Community Center when he was 8 years old. His father was an alcoholic, and when he drank, he would often go into rages, throwing things at Mateo’s mother, hitting and cursing her, and then grabbing the money from the jar in the cabinet and storming out of the house. Mateo witnessed this on many occasions, and as the abuse escalated, his mother moved to our Safe House with him and his younger sisters.
After a few months they moved out of the Safe House to their own apartment, and Mateo came to Project CHILD to work through his feelings about what he witnessed and the reality of his current situation.
At the beginning of his therapy at Project CHILD, Mateo denied and downplayed any abuse. He had weekly visitation with his father, and Mateo presented his family life through rose-colored glasses. He loved drawing and expressed himself through art and play. Though verbally he felt the need to express that life was perfect, when he’d lose himself in these creative activities, he would reach a more authentic place where his true feelings emerged. Mateo was very hard on himself, wanting each art piece to come out perfectly. When he deemed that he made a “mistake” in his painting or sculpture he’d often declare himself “doomed.” In this way, Mateo subconsciously expressed his feelings, but attached them to his art as opposed to feeling that way about many aspects in his life.
Using the many art, musical, and play therapy modalities Project CHILD has to offer, Project CHILD became a safe space where Mateo could work on these feelings without breaking down his protective walls all at once. In art therapy, we worked on the idea that while we can’t change the facts of our experiences, we can take control of our feelings. Once this idea settled within him, he learned to transfer it to other arenas of his life.