Tomás is a leading social entrepreneur known for trailblazing work using Hip Hop Therapy to promote mental health and wellbeing among youth of color. He is a clinically trained social worker specializing in the strength-based therapeutic care of youth disenfranchised by traditional mental health systems. He is an Ashoka Fellow and recent SEERS Fellow through Stanford University’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship. In 2015, Tomás was named a CNN Hero for his transformative work.
"To some people, hip-hop lyrics are about misogyny, materialism, drugs and violence. But to Tomás Alvarez, they're about something more. They're a way to help teens overcome hardship."
"By implementing hip-hop therapy programs, Alvarez has shown that it’s possible to empower youth to direct their own care and recovery. "
"Few might consider how therapeutic rapping can be for underserved populations suffering through the endless trauma of loss and violence. For Oakland-based social worker Tomás Alvarez, the connection couldn’t have been clearer."
"Alvarez teaches kids to beat life’s troubles with rhymes. "
"For Alvarez and his contemporaries, hip-hop has proved to be a vital resource for connecting with marginalized youth who might otherwise have difficulties opening up in traditional counseling settings."
""As Alvarez's ideas for using hip-hop as a form of therapy have gained traction, the genre itself has been emerging as a refuge from the black community's deep stigmas regarding mental health.""
Mental Health Reimagined
Hip Hop Therapy
In 2004, Tomás pioneered one of the first Hip Hop Therapy programs to engage young men of color in therapy. He later served as the founding CEO of Beats Rhymes and Life, Inc. (BRL) where his vision and leadership helped to establish the organization as a prominent player in the field of Hip Hop Therapy.
In 2015, Tomás transitioned out of BRL to start the Hip Hop Therapy Global Institute (HHTGI) and focus his efforts on field-building projects that give rise to collective impact. In 2016, he joined the Children’s Wellbeing Initiative, a joint project between Ashoka Changemakers and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Tomás is based in Oakland, California where he lives with his wife and their silky terrier.