The Center for Arts in Medicine recently completed their Theatre Connect program for Fall 2017, directed by program faculty Jeffrey Pufahl and co-facilitated by dance-movement therapist Elizabeth Snow.
This 8-week program used narrative-based and improvisational theater training to empower LGBTQ+ teens and was created in collaboration with Dr. Anyaliese Hancock-Smith and Dr. Cindi Gayle, psychologists in UF's Youth Gender Clinic. This unique clinician-theatre facilitator partnership is designed to create a safe and supportive environment for participants to engage in healthy self-expression, explore difficult topics and connect with each other through theatre games and exercises.
A preliminary needs assessment conducted in the greater Alachua county area by Camilo Reina Munoz, a Center for Arts in Medicine graduate assistant, found that the top three needs for LGBTQ+ youth are:
1) accurate and inclusive sexual education,
2) outlets to enhance their protective factors and build self-esteem, and
3) more healthcare providers who are LGBT inclusive in their practice.
Theatre Connect enhances protective factors and builds self-esteem in LGBTQ+ teens by providing a safe space for youth to gain confidence through sharing personal narratives and by connecting them and their families to health care providers and community resources. At least one mental health professional was present in every group session, which allowed the team to directly refer any of the participants to a clinician if the need arose. The program was hosted and sponsored by the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida, where participants had access to sexual health resources and LGBTQ+ specific literature as well as health and social service resources.
In the field of arts in public health, facilitators have the ability to provide a safe, artistic structure for self-expression, social interaction, community building and theatrical skill-building through initiatives like Theatre Connect.
The Theatre Connect team is currently researching the outcomes and processes of this innovative interdisciplinary approach to applied theatre for community health and look forward to sharing these results with the field.
Theatre Connect is scheduled to run again in February and March of 2018. For more information or to register contact CAM@arts.ufl.edu.