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Dave Leon is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Founding Director of Painted Brain. He has extensive social work practice experience in group homes, homeless shelters, hospitals, community mental health centers, and college counseling centers for close to 20 years. He started Painted Brain with members of an art group at Didi Hirsch in 2004. Five original members of this art group are still active participants in Painted Brain. The Painted Brain is a community of mental health activists using media and the arts to change the discussion about mental illness. He recognized early in his career that the mental health system fails to provide the most important aspect of mental health and recovery, a sense of community. He has worked tirelessly for more than a decade building the dynamic, creative community of artists and activists that is Painted Brain.
Dave went on to work as a staff therapist at UCLA’s Student Counseling Center before devoting himself to the development of Painted Brain full-time beginning in 2012. He has provided ten thousand hours of individual therapy, learning that for people both with and without serious mental illness relationships to other people are almost always of primary importance when helping a person live a better life, regardless of diagnosis. Dave continues to sharpen his clinical skills as the clinical group supervisor to the social work team at Step Up On Second and as a therapist in private practice.
Dave is driven in his work with Painted Brain by a vision of a world in which mental illness is truly accepted as one more aspect of the beautiful tapestry of difference that binds us together as humans. Based in the literature on attachment theory, the Painted Brain was conceived as an attachment object, a point of shared connection for a potential community. Now he is shifting focus to build the community center to house the vision.