Thank you Gina Roell for writing this blog post! Gina is an art therapist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Hello from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Thanks to Sam’s Fans, the patients on our Bone Marrow Transplant unit are able to benefit from art therapy services. I wanted to share some of the art therapy activities (interventions) that I use with the patients that Sam’s Fans makes possible.
What do you do when a patient seems “stuck”? Or when a patient is focused on one part of their treatment, such as pain, or being away from the outside world? I have used our Buddha boards to assist these patients in making sense of these emotions. What is a Buddha board you may be thinking? A Buddha board is a flat surface that the patient can paint on using only water. As the surface dries, the image slowly disappears and then can be used again. The impermanence of this art form brings about many conversations including how pain can be temporary and what kind of feelings does the patient want to disappear. The Buddha board is also a meditative tool. Patients place their mark on the board and then watch the water drip down the board, leaving a trail as it slowly dries.
When I am working with younger patients, it’s evident they benefit from very hands on, sculptural art. I love using Model Magic (an air-dry clay that is very easy for young hands to mold and piece together) to create sculptures. Themes of safety and feelings regarding their care often surface in pretend play, while using the figures they create. During this pretend play a child who is unable to tell you verbally how he/she feels about their treatment, can communicate their true feelings. It allows the caregivers to help them cope as they share their emotions.
Another intervention that I use a lot with my patients is watercolor paint, but not always in the traditional “let’s paint a picture” way. Patients are encouraged to play with the paint with no expectations to create an image. I teach them techniques while they are playing and observe their response to each technique. Watercolor is a great media to encourage sharing of emotions for patients that feel closed off or those that need a non-threatening way to create with no expectations about what will happen. Watercolors can be very difficult to control, making them a great media to talk about how to cope with situations that you can’t control. Through talking about what is happening in the art, we can relate it to feelings that the patient is experiencing.
The patients that I work with here are very sick. They often have been in the hospital for a long time and sometimes are not seeing the progress in treatment that they are hoping for. With these patients my goal is often to foster resilience and encourage hope. I remember having a conversation with a patient who had just relapsed and was losing hope. We were looking for one good thing that happened to her that day. She found one good thing she was grateful for and then went on to create a Gratitude journal where she could record her “good things” as often as she wanted. She was so proud of this journal, she shared it with anyone who entered her room and passed on the idea of how one good thing, no matter how small, can increase feelings of hope.
Thank you Sam’s Fans!
These are just a few of the art therapy activities that I use with the patients here at Children’s. Because of the generosity of Sam’s Fans, I can provide Art Therapy to patients as well as families and make a difficult time in their lives a little more bearable.
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