Meet Jerri Lee Young, Clinical Director for Residential Programs

Katie Ettl
September 18, 2023

“Humor and playfulness inspire my art,” says Jerri Lee Young as she describes her recent work. A lifelong artist, Jerri has two upcoming gallery shows this fall and is completing the finishing touches on her pieces. Combining collage, painting, and assemblage, her art demonstrates an element of freedom – and she astutely acknowledges this principle as one that she encourages among veterans she works with. As Clinical Director for Residential Programs at Swords to Plowshares, Jerri supports many housing residents through a variety of programs that promote mental wellbeing, including art therapy. “We can express so many things that are internal or we don’t even know about ourselves through creating art,” Jerri explains, “to do so, it’s helpful to be spontaneous.”  

Jerri began her work with Swords to Plowshares in 2012. Originally hired as a Case Manager at the San Francisco Drop-in Center, she transitioned to the housing unit as the Program Manager for De Montfort. After two years at De Montfort, she served as Assistant Director for Residential Programs. She was recently promoted to her current position as Clinical Director for Residential Programs. A visual artist and poet, Jerri was also a professional theatre artist for many years before returning to school to study psychology. Jerri holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology with an emphasis in expressive arts therapy from California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.  

Jerri lists all the methods she uses with veterans to express themselves: clay sculpting, mask-making, collage, drawing, group drum circles, theatre games – in all these methods, participants are able to have their voices and thoughts heard without having to articulate with words. For individuals struggling with mental health issues and trauma, having to articulate experiences and memories can be a huge barrier towards receiving genuine care. Art transforms the subconscious into externalized information that can be analyzed together. “It gives veterans an outlet to understand what’s unknown or unspoken,” Jerri recalls many profound instances of realization with participants, “and for me I get to experience some incredible moments that only artistic expression can access.”

Swords is proud of Jerri’s dedication and passion for art, community, and mental health. Her latest work will be shown at UMA Art Gallery in Oakland, September 22nd-November 4th, 2023 and at Refusés of The Bay show at Metal Haus Gallery in San Francisco, September 29th-October 28th, 2023.