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November 4, 2022/Pediatrics/Rehabilitation

Hip-Hop Music as a Tool in Trauma-Based Care for Adolescent Patients

How lyric writing, song production is helping patients ‘reclaim their power’

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Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation (CCCHR), in collaboration with Refresh Collective, a Cleveland-based nonprofit arts organization, is helping pediatric patients heal from trauma through a unique hip-hop therapy program called B-fly Breakthrough.

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“B-fly Breakthrough is designed to engage tweens and adolescents in working on their own narratives through music and lyrics, which can help them process their trauma,” says Lainie Holman, MD, Chair of Pediatric Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at CCCHR.

Refresh Collective, which has been in operation for about 12 years, has been working with minority youth to assist in rehabilitation from physical, mental and emotional traumas through hip-hop music production and clothing design. They have worked with thousands of children in the community at schools, a drug treatment center and its recording studio in an inner-city Cleveland neighborhood.

Dr. Holman connected with Refresh Collective in 2020, seeking additional organized and thoughtful therapeutic programs due to an increase in admissions of children at CCCHR related to violence. She was familiar with Refresh Collective and thought it may be helpful to work with these children.

“We wanted something that resonated with kids and adolescents,” says Recreation Therapist Ashley Everett, CTRS. Ms. Everett secured funding for the program with a Caregiver Catalyst Grant, an initiative of Cleveland Clinic’s Philanthropy Institute.

How Hip-Hop Fresh works

Refresh Collective has set up a mobile recording studio on-site at CCCHR. Staff members, including psychologists, recreation therapists and music therapists, are trained to provide ongoing support in the B-fly Breakthrough curriculum, which will be customized for the hospital setting to best engage patients.

“Through our curriculum and implementation of B-fly Breakthrough, our patients have a safe space to share their life stories of struggle and success,” Ms. Everett says.

Pediatric patients who participate in this therapy program not only write song lyrics based on their life experiences, but they also have the opportunity to produce a beat and record the song. Therapists monitor how the children are adjusting and coping with their issues through weekly individual or group-based interventions.

Easing the transition back to the community

The B-fly Breakthrough program also helps bridge the gap for patients transitioning from the hospital environment back into the community.

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“Our overall goal is getting kids to return to an independent level of functioning,” Ms. Everett says.

With Refresh Collective’s community program offerings that include classes and camps and a recording studio right in their neighborhood, CCCHR’s patients have the comfort, familiarity and support of the program to ease the reintegration process. The Refresh Collective musicians themselves will be familiar faces and will help in mentoring the children as they adjust to life back in the community again.

“The B-fly Breakthrough program helps foster a relationship and encourage continued engagement in community-based activities with the Refresh Collective team as a child transitions back to the community,” Ms. Everett says. “It allows patients a unique opportunity to explore their trauma experiences, name their pain, and reclaim their power.”

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