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Alumni Project Spotlight: Emma M

At Paradigm Treatment Centers, we put great value in the implementation of expressive arts therapies. Young people are encouraged to explore their thoughts and feelings through art, music, dance and drama. One modality that is particularly popular among the young people that serve is photography. Below, alumni Emily M. shares a masterful project that she completed while a participant in our Malibu program.


Emma’s Recovery Creative Arts Project

I chose to take pictures about my recovery because it means a lot to me. I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, and PTSD since I was 12. This is meaningful to me because this year
I’ve finally wanted to get better.


The story begins with my life starting and how life was good. Then the sunset comes which is my depression and after that everything starts to go down hill. The rain on the window is talking about the fact I felt down everyday. I felt like I was in a storm everyday. The puzzle is the fact I can act like I’m put together, but so many pieces are missing. The room with chairs is kind of recovery but to me it means people being there but not being able to connect and feeling alone in a group of people. The vines are showing that i would get tangled with my emotions. The note is where I pushed myself too far. I felt like life was over for me. That was the deepest part of my depression and my suicide attempts.


At this time in my life I had no hope. I spent hours in therapy or in hospitals for hurting myself. This was the part of my life where I didn’t see myself even finishing high school… But now I WANT to LIVE.


Then the sunrise comes which is the start of my recovery. This represents recovery to me because I can see where I’m going in life and I’m no longer walking blindly through the dark. The water on the plants represents my life is returning but still struggling my depression. The paper crane represents finding peace within myself and what has happened to me. The ying yang symbolizes that there will always be good in the bad and bad in the good. Its taught me to look on the bright side. The rocks balanced on each other means balance in life. Balance is a very important key to life. I want to have balance between feelings; when to work and when to play; etc. The last photo is a tree at the treatment center. The roots are my past they make me strong and keep me supported but I’m still growing; still getting stronger.


I’m new to photography I got in to it this year I’ve found its a great coping skill. I had help from my teacher Adam. He taught that different angels effect the perspective and tell a different story. He was very helpful through the whole thing. I took these pictures while I was a client and Paradigm Malibu. I wish I could have worked more with people. Next time I would work with people and pick out outfits for them and something more directed towards fashion. I think these improvements would be good because I want to go to Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. I want to go there for photography and photo shoot design. Eventually I want to travel the world and take pictures for vogue, elite fashion or own my own online boutique. I think  Creative Arts Secondary School can help me with that. I want to learn more skills to farther my photography career. I also think it will be good going to this school so I can connect with people that are interested in the same thing as I am.




Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.

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