Move over, Freud. Rap therapy has come to town.

I was scanning through You Tube this afternoon and came across a music video made by a group of Oakland kids, titled, “My Life.” It was a project of Beats, Rhymes and Life, which describes its work as a “strengths-based, teen-friendly, culturally sensitive approach to social work with at-risk teens.”

Beats, Rhymes and Life uses rap therapy to reach teens who need help, but who are put off by the idea of traditional forms of counseling. Check it out for yourself, if you have six minutes:


Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • susan

    Beats, Rhymes and Life is the best of many worlds–education, therapy, youth development and art. This is the kind of programming that we need to support, through funding and the appropriate city, county and school policies, all over Oakland.

  • Mark

    I have worked as clinical social worker in community mental for ten years now and I have never seen a more creative, suitable approach for working with at-risk teens. Beats, Rhymes and Life is a prime example of how mental health services need to shift to better serve our youth!

  • Elliot Gann

    I agree, that’s why I’m doing my dissertation on this program and trying to provide empirical evidence for this. By the way, Freud need not move over as he is the basis for the psychoanalytic theory through which the dynamic workings of the program can be understood.

    This is what the youth need and as a Hip Hop activist, producer, promoter, and clinician/psychologist in training I strongly believe in this program. I saw these young men grow and transform over only a few weeks and come together as a group. Tomas Alvarez (who started the program and runs it) is truly a visionary and a humble person, please support his program and pass this video around.
    Elliot Gann, M.A.
    pre-doctoral intern, The Wright Institute, Berkeley, Ca

  • Kiki

    It’s such a an amazing feeling to see our youth expressing themselves creatively. So much is happening around them and there’s no outlet so I’m absolutely ecstatic to see a program like Beat, Rhymes, and Life embracing our youth. Tomas is a visionary and I give him thanks for putting his dream into action.

  • Robert

    This is program sounds incredible. This music video is very inspiring. You can see that the youth are very invested and engaged. I think it’s great that this is offered as an alternative to therapy. I wish I had something like this when I was a teen. Beats, Rhymes & Life should be offered in all schools, especially in Oakland where there is a big need for more support for teens.

  • Brittany

    This is truly an incredible and innovative mental health program. Talk about “meeting the client where they are at!!”. I am a clinical social worker in the Napa school district and know that a program like this would reach so many of our at risk youth. As we all know traditional talk therapy does not work for everyone. After reading this blog and watching the video I was curious of how I could find out more about this program so I went to google of course! The program and their website was very impressive!!! It clearly explains the mission of the BRL program, how it came about, and the strengths based approach the creator based it upon. Check it out! http://www.beatsrhymesandlife.org

  • Mina

    What makes Beats, Rhymes, and Life truly extraordinary among youth programs is that it is lead by mental health professionals, and combines the healing power of art and music with the internal and external world of each youth. I have represented youth in the juvenile justice system that would benefit so much from this program. I am so thankful for the efforts of the coordinators! Keep up the good work!

  • Chris

    As an educator of 10 years and now an outreach therapist for 18-25 year olds in Connecticut, I am familiar with how difficult it is to motivate young people to take care of themselves…especially through the expression of their feelings. This program clearly demonstrates how, instead of forcing youth into the education and health systems that we have in place, we can let their voices be heard in the creation of healing and unity. Along with the exercise of individual introspection and writing , this program makes excellent use of the group process to bring about therapeutic gains. Bravo! Will you start programs on the East Coast please?!?

  • Ann

    Tomas’ vision and action — and the youth who participate in BRL — are inspiring. This is the kind of program that deserves support, and I hope it continues to grow and thrive. Good luck, BRL!

  • Rogers

    Good stuff Tomas. Keep up the great work.

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  • http://ryrap.blogspot.com rap

    no bad…

  • http://sonicproducer9.sosblog.com/-b/Have-A-Peek-At-The-Top-Beat-Making-Programs-You-ll-Start-With-Sonic-Producer-b1-p1.htm Charles Thomas

    Hip hop is my life, man.  I dream about being a producer  My family’s on some hard times though.  People with the ducats get to the top usually.  Though J-Zay is from the hood. 

  • http://www.brlfilmproject.com Tomas

    Beats, Rhymes & Life is having a fundraiser event this Friday, March 12th at the New Parish in downtown Oakland. Proceeds go to meet a $10,000 matching grant awarded to the Beats, Rhymes & Life Film Project, a documentary on the youth in last year’s BRL program at Oakland High. To learn more about film and the event visit http://www.brlfilmproject.com

    We would love your support!