Healing through art

Expressive therapy program improves quality of life for patients

Expressive therapy program improves quality of life for patients

 “Art … speaks to our need to heal, reveal and transform. It transcends our ordinary lives and lets us imagine what is possible.” – Richard Kamler, artist and educator

There is growing evidence that art can have healing and restorative power for the mind and body. In particular, viewing and creating works of art evoke a sense of calm that rejuvenates the body in a way that medicine alone cannot do.

Expressive therapies make use of art’s profound effects. Through visual art, music, writing, drama, massage and more, children and their families are offered a therapeutic way to express their feelings, fears, worries, hopes and dreams during a hospital stay. This expression helps release the energy being held inside and allows their bodies to heal.

The Addison Jo Blair Cancer Care Center at Norton Children’s Hospital offers expressive therapies for children with cancer and their families as a way to cope with their diagnosis and experiences. Acting Against Cancer, a Louisville theater group, has pledged $500,000 to support the expressive therapy program. To buy tickets for their upcoming performance and event, collaborACT!, visit ActingAgainstCancer.com.

Art therapy has been shown to decrease symptoms of distress and improve general quality of life in the hospital setting. It is beneficial for patients because it allows them to process trauma, communicate their feelings nonverbally and take a time-out from the medical environment. Expressive therapies provide emotional support, an outlet for self-expression, increased sense of control and improved body image and self-esteem. They also function as techniques for relaxation and pain relief.

Music therapists address physical, psychological, cognitive and social functions through a variety of music-related activities. Benefits of music therapy include improved sleep and appetite, reduced pain and increased relaxation. For infants in the neonatal intensive care unit, music therapy can help improve breathing, promote developmental skills, calm the infant and more.

All forms of art can enhance the healing process of mind and body. Working on personal art pieces helps build self-esteem and creativity, and gives patients an opportunity to have fun and feel relaxed. It’s accessible in a way that feels nonthreatening, which is especially important for patients who have experienced trauma or a life-threatening condition.

Expressive therapies can be an important part of a patient’s treatment plan. Studies have documented positive effects on the physical and mental health of patients. In particular, expressive therapies provide feelings of safety, relaxation, self-expression, fun and control in an environment that might feel obtrusive, scary or unpredictable.


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