Voces Arts and Healing is a self-organized, volunteer group of expressive arts therapists, psychotherapists and educators who have all worked with complex trauma. The original vision for Voces began with holistic practitioner, music therapist and singer Greta Bro in June 2019, when she became deeply distressed after hearing news coverage of the brutal treatment of asylum seekers and their children by the US government. She contacted her friend and colleague Dr. Mitchell Kossak, the former president of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and current professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. They began an extensive conversation about the key role expressive arts therapies can play in helping mitigate the short and long term effects of compounded trauma, especially in children. Mitchell then launched an inspired networking campaign to see who among the national expressive arts therapy community, would be willing to volunteer trauma informed care to refugees living in shelters in the US and Mexico. Greta teamed up with Sarah Mendelsohn and began to build this website.
A core team evolved in July, and after meeting weekly for two months on Zoom calls, team member Dr. Kelvin Ramirez, who is also a core faculty member of the Expressive Therapies Division of Lesley University, began making inquiries about bringing a group of us down to work with asylum seekers in Juarez, Mexico. Kelvin had already made several trips to the region himself and made a connection with Enrique Valenzuela, head of COESPO, the civil protection services in Chihuahua State which promotes and coordinates the city population, the right to health protection, education, work, housing, the equality of men and women, and the protection and economic and social well-being of families. He is also the director of Ciudad Juarez’s Centro de Atención a Migrantes, a migrant transition agency operated by the Chihuahua state government. Kelvin also contacted Lucca De Alva who works for Organización Mundial por la Paz (World Peace Organization) and the Servicios Educativos del Estado de Chihuahua (Educational Services of the State of Chihuahua), that currently provide services to refugees/asylum seekers in Juarez shelters. In October 2019 Kelvin began taking trips to Juarez to both assess needs and create networks to begin trauma informed expressive arts therapy groups in shelters and a training program for volunteers in the region. In December 2019, Voces Arts and Healing practitioners began traveling to Mexico in teams of as many as ten practitioners, to work with refugees in nine shelters in Juarez and begin training programs in the region.
Co Carew, Ph.D., LICSW, President of Voces Arts and Healing. Co’s dissertation title was “The Moccasin Project, Understanding a Sense of Place through Indigenous Art and Stories.” This study will be used in the future to develop specific trauma reduction interventions, grounded in one’s cultural resilience. Co has woven her Mescalero Apache knowledge into her professional and academic work, and as a result, has developed culturally rich curriculum and mental health interventions. Over the past 20 years, Co has worked as an educator and counselor at the Salish Kootenai College, a tribal college located on the Flathead Indian reservation in Northwest Montana. During her tenure, she developed the first accredited Social Work Program offered at a Tribal College. Studying Expressive Arts at a doctoral level has encouraged Co to deepen an understanding of arts-based interventions, specifically in the context of Native American communities. She has joined Arts-Based and Indigenous Research methods to make visible, abstract and complex ideas. She is also the mother of two beautiful daughters, who simultaneously acquired an undergraduate nursing degree, a chemistry degree, and a doctorate in Expressive Therapies, respectively.
Mitchell Kossak, Ph.D., LMHC, REAT, is a Professor and former director in the Expressive Therapies program at Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a licensed clinical counselor and registered expressive arts therapist and has presented his work and research on rhythmic attunement, improvisation, psychospiritual and community-based approaches to working with trauma at conferences nationally and internationally in China, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, Argentina, Guatemala, and Israel. Dr. Kossak has trained in a variety of mind body modalities including Polarity Therapy, Craniosacral Therapy, Deep Tissue Massage and Bioenergetics. He has training in, music therapy, experimental theater, psychodrama, and authentic movement. He is the past President for the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and the Associate Editor of the International Journal of Applied Arts and Health. He is the author of Attunement in Expressive Arts Therapy: Toward an Understanding of Embodied Empathy. He is also a professional musician, performing for the past 35 years in the Boston area.
Greta Bro, M.A., is a holistic psychotherapist, workshop leader, music therapist, social activist and singer/songwriter. Greta works with her students to understand the role personal healing plays in the transformation of society, cultural perspectives and practices. She brings thirty-five years’ experience to her work with complex trauma utilizing holistic counseling, energy medicine, expressive arts therapies and depth psychology. She has extensive experience as a presenter and has led seminars on music and sound therapy, shamanic improvisation at Wheelock College, Lesley University and UMass, Boston. Greta has also led her own retreats exploring the reemergence of the sacred feminine and women in leadership since 1975, as well as facilitated seminars for pioneer Harvard archeologist and anthropologist, Marija Gimbutas, whose work brought to light ancient goddess cultures in Neolithic Europe. She performs in the US and Brazil with her band WOKE, offering concerts that combine sacred jazz, world, soul, rap and poetry and address the journey of healing ourselves and our world. She has received praise for her original CD “Love’s Song” in the US, France, Spain, Sweden and Brazil.
Kelvin Ramirez, Ph.D., is a Board-Certified Registered Art Therapist (ATR-BC) and core faculty member of the Expressive Therapies Division at Lesley University, with a dual appointment in Global Interdisciplinary Studies where he coordinates with a selected team of faculty to deliver customized curricular content for Nicaraguan educators. Kelvin is a Board Member of FNE International, a 501(c)3 organization that partners with communities in developing nations to identify opportunities to advance housing, health and education. Dr. Ramirez continues to collaborate and develop programs with educators, clinicians, and community leaders in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and India.
Hillary Rubesin, PhD., is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist. She is currently the Executive Director of the Art Therapy Institute, a community-based nonprofit in North Carolina that engages in arts-based clinical work, culturally-humble research, education and training, and mental health advocacy efforts. Since 2008, Hillary has worked primarily with refugee and immigrant children and adults, resettled in North Carolina from over 40 countries worldwide. She is honored to join the Voces team to help bring expressive arts therapy to refugees and immigrants in all stages of the migration journey.
Stan Strickland, M.A., has served as co-executive and artistic director of Express Yourself, an organization that works with at risk youth though performance arts (https://www.exyo.org/). Singer, saxophonist, actor, and flautist, Stan has performed extensively throughout the US, Europe, the Caribbean, and New Zealand. He conducts workshops in voice and movement therapy internationally. He has helped more than 7000 students create a grand culminating performance after year-long residencies now center stage at the Citi Wang Theater. He is the recipient of the 2007 Eliot Norton Award for Best Individual Performance. He currently teaches in the Master’s Program at Lesley University and Berklee College of Music.
Yousef AlAjarma, Ph.D., LMHC, REAT is an Associate Professor in the Counseling Department at William James College. Dr. AlAjarma earned his Ph.D. in Expressive Therapies Lesley University, Cambridge, MA. Dr. AlAjarma is a registered Expressive Arts Therapist. His areas of professional interest include: the application of arts to teaching and to psychotherapy practice, resilience and trauma, family and couples therapy, and conflict transformation. In addition, he worked as an Expressive Arts Therapist and a Mental Health counselor with many trauma survivors in Palestine and has held positions with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Les Médicins du Monde (Doctors of the World), the Palestinian Ministry of Education and many other NGOs. For the last four years Dr. AlAjarma has been providing pro bono mental health counseling services to the Muslim and the Arab community in the Boston Area. He is also the Executive co-chair of the Board of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association.
Ellen Sperling is an artist, an activist and a professor of English as a Second Language. Her work as an artist is about transformation, metamorphosis, our evolution as a species and as individuals. It has to do with bearing witness to History, and with personal history: our selves, our cells, our choices. Her work has been shown in galleries and museums, including the Fogg Art Museum, the Fuller Museum of Art and the Laguna Gloria Art Museum in Austin TX. She has taught drawing, painting, tie-dye and puppet-making in after-school programs and shelters, including Transitions House, where she has been a volunteer. She has also worked with refugees being resettled to the US through the International Rescue Committee. She has been a professor of English as a Second Language for over 25 years. Her focus in teaching is not grammar or pronunciation; it is about what it means to be human and ‘hearing people into speech’.
Joe Mageary, Ph.D., LMHC, CCMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Licensed School Adjustment Counselor, trauma-informed mental health clinician, and active musician. He is trained in advanced anxiety-reduction techniques (including the Mind-Body Stress Reduction protocol) and trauma processing techniques (such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Currently, Dr. Mageary holds the position of Assistant Professor of Counseling and Psychology and Director of Field Training at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. He is also a member of the 2019-20 Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma’s Global Mental Health certificate cohort. In his clinical experience, Dr. Mageary has seen how trauma is at the root of a wide array of psychological struggles and how healing trauma involves processes of integration and re-integration. He believes that a creative, multidisciplinary and global approach are opportunities to engage (re)integration from systemic and social justice-oriented perspectives.
Devon Govoni, LMHC, ATR-BC, REAT is a doctoral candidate of expressive arts therapies at Lesley University and is an adjunct professor at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Devon’s private practice, Abstract Therapy LLC, in Plymouth, Massachusetts offers action-oriented approaches created through systemic, interdisciplinary lenses combined with the expressive arts. She is newly collaborating with a local alternative charter school, MAP Academy, incorporating all of the expressive arts as part of their unique and innovative programming. Devon is also a visual artist with an extensive international exhibition and publication history who specializes in oil painting, mixed media, sculpture, and photography. In more recent years, her work has been displayed at the Louvre in Paris, France and a part of art events in Florence, Venice, and Milano, Italy. She is currently contracted with CreativPaper magazine out of London who focus heavily on environmental, mental health, and social justice awareness and gather artists who share these passions to help promote needs for change through the arts.
Abraham Sussman, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist, Musician, Meditation Teacher and Peace Activist. He has been Clinical Director of Agua Viva Associates, and the SOMA Counselling Center. He works as a psychotherapist, with a deep respect for the healing power of love, relationships and community. As a musician, Abraham was a member of the original Sufi Choir with Allaudin Mathieu, and has ever since been inspired by Murshid Sam’s request of him to “write New Age psalms.” This led Abraham deeply into the Dances of Universal Peace. Through the 1970s and early 1980s he co-led a Dance and Meditation gathering in Cambridge that met twice weekly, and also cofounded the Guru Blanket Band, which played mantric rock and dervish roll. Several of his CDs carry this musical transmission, including Voice of the Heart, In Peace: A Call to Unity, and (in collaboration with Murshid Saadi) Beginnings, and Bridge: The Journey of the Mystic Traveller.
Laura Smith, M.A., is an expressive arts therapist and educator deeply committed to nurturing individual and collective growth and healing through creativity. She has been designing and facilitating creative processes with schools, communities, and individuals for over a decade throughout the US, Central and South America, Kenya and China. Her work uses a myriad of expressive resources, including community murals, peace-making circles and therapeutic drumming, to promote healing, dialogue and transformation. She currently works as a mural artist and art therapist at Raw Art Works in Lynn, Massachusetts where she holds space for young leaders to support social change through their own healing process. Laura is part of a global street art movement called Girls to the Front which allows women and girls to create new narratives about themselves in public space using public art as a vehicle. Current murals and arts initiatives exist in China, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Kenya, Colombia, Brazil, as well as Somerville, Cambridge, Lynn and Chelsea Massachusetts.
Carla Velázquez is a social worker with a master’s degree in Fine Arts Education, specializing in Theater. She is currently completing her doctorate in Administration, Social Work from the Graduate Department of Social Work at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. Her focus is on public policy analysis and development, educational leadership, and intervention through the Arts. She has a profound interest in catalyzing educational transformation through the utilization of the Arts, as it has been shown to successfully reduce the incidence of violence and the severity of compassion fatigue in professionals that assist in these scenarios. Velázquez currently works as the Program Coordinator for the Trauma-informed Art Therapy program at the Psychotraumatology Institute of Puerto Rico and is an Adjunct Professor in the Expressive Arts Therapy Graduate Program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has over 15 years’ experience in working with the Department of Education and the Department of Tourism of Puerto Rico, developing innovative programs in education and intervention for high-risk communities including strategic planning. She further has experience working with federal grant programs within the United States and similar program developments with international collaborators.
Marianela Soto Hurtado is a child psychologist in Chile. She completed all her studies in the United States, with a Master’s in Human Development from Harvard University, and post-Master’s degrees in Child Counseling, and in Expressive Therapies from Lesley University. For many years, she worked in Boston, at Boston Children’s Hospital and at the South End Health Center, a clinic dedicated to working with ethnic minorities. She specialized in psychotherapy with abused children at Giarretto Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Program in California, and created a training program in assessment and treatment of child abuse. She taught these courses to the 180 centers that assess, treat and protect vulnerable children in Chile. She focuses on the use of play, art and storytelling so that children can more fully express and heal from their traumatic experiences.