Thank you to art therapist Gina Roell for writing this blog post on how art therapy can help sick children!
Art therapy is a means of communication. It gives the patient another method of expression when words are not readily available. In a medical setting, the patient feels a sense of control over the media chosen. This also feels like controlling a part of their treatment!
“In cancer patients, pain, weakness, fatigue, hair loss, permanent post-operative scars, possible side effects of treatments, and permanent bodily changes caused by treatment failures affect the character of the individual; and on the other hand, the fear of death may lead to emotional changes, and loss of self-confidence.” (2)
Art therapy helps the patient cope and strengthens their mental health when faced with these difficulties. It improves the quality of life reducing stress and anxiety. Artwork created within the art therapy framework should be considered a visual expression of their diagnosis. Art Therapy makes patients’ experiences visible. (3)
The Difference between Art and Art Therapy
While there are unique benefits to both art for arts’ sake and art therapy, there are distinct differences. When a patient has art materials that they enjoy, there are direct benefits to the patient including decreasing stress, increasing independence, and giving a sense of autonomy. Art therapy is built on the foundation of the rapport between patient and therapist, which allows deeper psychological healing to take place.
The art therapist is more concerned with the process of creating than the actual product, where an artist is more focused on the final result. This is why many art pieces that come from an art therapy session are “messy” or visually displeasing speaking to the emotions that the patient may have had a difficult time putting into words. The purpose is to allow the expression of feelings, beginning to understand feelings, and finding healing in the process.
What Art Therapy Can Do
Art Therapy is gaining more and more recognition for its contribution to the healing of patients.
“Creative work can offer distraction from the side effects of treatment, soothe anxiety, and create a way to express feelings that might otherwise seem too difficult to share.” (1)
“Art that results from the creative process is an end in and of itself. Art therapy, by contrast, is a means to an end. It uses creative activity as a vehicle for rehabilitation, a means of helping the sick or disabled.
Art therapists believe that everyone is an artist or can be when left to create freely and without external constraints of judgment or criticism. The very process of creating a painting, sculpture, or any other type of art, including written art such as poetry or stories, can help develop self-awareness and self-esteem. The release of creative energy generates internal activity that helps produce physical, mental, and spiritual healing.” (1)
Art therapy calls attention to the patient’s strengths. It is in the creation of art that children have the means to rebuild their sense of well-being and be reassured that they are still a person with a lot to offer. (4) Art therapy can give a language to the description of pain for even the littlest of patients, instill hope, give structure, and give a sense of autonomy. (4)
1.Cassileth,PhD, Barrie, Complementary Therapies in Cancer Care:Art Therapy, Cancer Connect, August 1, 2018
3. Malchiodi, C.A., Art Therapy and Healthcare, The Guilford Press, New York (2013)
4. Councill Tracy, Medical Art Therapy with Children, from Handbook of Art Therapy second edition. Edited by Cathy Malchiodi, (2012)
Thank you Gina for writing this blog post on how art therapy can make sick children feel good!