Art Therapy

Kim Maryniak, PhD, RNC-NIC, NEA-BC
Art Therapy

Caring for patients includes providing holistic strategies that go beyond pharmacological treatment. Art therapy is one approach that provides therapeutic benefits to patients and families. Since the 1800s, the use of art therapy has been identified as expressionistic and has multiple benefits. Art therapy can be used for patients to express feelings and emotions that they may not be able to verbalize (Ryan, 2017).

Art therapy is used in healthcare settings for pediatric and adult patients alike. Recreational or registered art therapists can provide therapy with individuals or in group settings. Art therapy methods positively influence the midbrain, limbic system and the cortex. A variety of mediums can be used for art therapy. The use of three-dimensional materials, such as creating sculptures and ceramics, can support physical and psychological healing. The use of colors in art therapy increases the patient’s ability to express emotions, and can also assist in learning and analytical processes (Bilgin, Kirca, & Ozdogen, 2018).

Current research, including multiple case studies, have reported that art therapy benefits patients with both emotional and physical illnesses. Studies have been done in many areas, including burn recovery in pediatrics and adolescents, eating disorders, emotional impairment in pediatrics and adults, reading performance, childhood grief, and sexual abuse in adolescents. Other studies have included adults or families in bereavement, patients and family members dealing with addictions, and patients who are coping with cancer diagnoses, such as those who have undergone bone marrow transplants. Art therapy has also been found to assist with behavioral health, such as hyperactivity, stress disorders, attention deficit, memory disorders, and problematic behaviors. Research continues into the use of art therapy for reducing anxiety, pain management, improving recovery times, decreasing length of hospital stays, and improving communication and social function (Bilgin, Kirca, & Ozdogen, 2018; Ryan, 2017).

Art therapy has been used for centuries to allow patients to express feelings they may not be able to verbalize. Although art therapy is not a replacement for pharmacological intervention, it’s another tool to consider when providing holistic care to your patient.

For more information about art therapy and other complementary and alternative medicine techniques, check out the RN.com course Complementary and Alternative Medicine Part II.

Bilgin, E., Kirca, O, & Ozdogen, M. (2018). Art therapies in cancer: A non-negligible beauty and benefit. Journal of Oncological Sciences, 4(1), 47-48.

Ryan, L. (2017). Complementary and Alternative Medicine Part II. Retrieved from https://lms.rn.com/getpdf.php/2287.pdf

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