Latino Innovators: Tomas Alvarez Introduces Rap Therapy


POSTED: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 1:02pm

UPDATED: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 1:14pm

Tomas Alvarez says he always gravitated towards working with young people, and he also had a passion for hip hop.

Today, he says he feels blessed to be able to have a job that blends his two loves together.

He pioneered an innovative rap therapy model which uses the process of creating rap music to engage troubled teens in need of mental health services.

In 2004, the young social worker founded his own non-profit, Beats Rhymes and Life, which uses this rap therapy model which is now offered in many schools and mental health settings with programs in Oakland, and San Francisco, California, and the Bronx, New York.

"We've only seen positive impact," says Alvarez. "In Oakland, young people are having a very hard time. While I was in Oakland High School, we had lost a student every year to gun violence. A lot of young people are constantly having to watch their back. We help to build trust and relationships."

It was when Alvarez was in his early 20's that he landed a job as a behavioral specialist for children and families in San Francisco.

He says it was there he saw therapy through backpacking and different wilderness activities.

One case which would normally take two years to see signs of improvement only took four days.

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