Evanston organization uses art to help people overcome health challenges

There's an organization in Evanston that helps people overcome health challenges with the power of art.

"My name is Nikki, Nicole Clifford. My dad's name is Dan Clifford. He had a stroke about four years ago. He has aphaysia and has trouble speaking and getting his words out," Nicole Clifford said.

"With Dan, he knows what he wants to say. He has cognitive capacity to speak but the link between the brain and mouth has sort of been broken," said Jenni Rook, executive director of the Institute for Therapy Through the Arts. "We use music to get in the brain and help pull that language out of him and over time retrain the brain to learn to speak in a different way than it did before."

"We provide art, drama, dance movement and music therapies here," Rook said. "Our clients are all ages and individuals who struggle with a variety of issues."

"I can express myself through art instead of having a one on one direct conversation. It's more collaborative. It's more expressive," said Isabella Cordova at the ITA facility in Evanston.

"Ever since I was in 8th grade, I have struggled with social anxiety," Cordova said. "I couldn't talk to my teachers, I couldn't talk to my classmates. I used to carry earbuds in my ears 24/7 because I didn't want anyone to talk to me."

"I've been here five years and I'm the practice director and art therapist," said Dr. Marni Rosen with the Institute For Therapy Through the Arts.

"Bella when she first started with me, it was all focus on the arts. Even looking at me or saying a single word, even answering a direct question was so much pressure," Dr. Rosen said.

"With Bella today, we just glued things to canvas that were broken and being recycled and it didn't matter what it looked like," Dr. Rosen said. "It's about finding a way to be comfortable with oneself to express oneself to explore new things."

"Therapy isn't something that people access the same way," Rook said. "Everybody has a different path to healing."

"I can 100 percent say I would not be where I am without this therapy," Cordova said. "Right now, I'm at DePaul at their theater program studying theater management.
My goal is to be a producer to have more women in positions of power in the entertainment industry and women of color in the entertainment industry."

"Our clients don't come here because they're musicians or they have a background in theater or dance," Rook said. "I think it surprises them when they realize I can use music or can use art and this is really helping me and I can do some of this on my own after I learn techniques in therapy sessions with my therapist."
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