Art Therapy for Chronic Illness
Sickle Cell Disorder is a chronic illness. When a person is diagnosed with illness, the health worker’s first instinct is to focus on the physical health and alleviate the pain. But in addition to the physical health, they should also keep in mind that these individuals also suffer emotionally.
Concerns about health can be a source of stress and anxiety, not only for the patient, but for his family and loved ones as well. The good news is that patients and their families can get through this emotional turmoil with the help of art therapy.
Today, art therapy is used in several hospitals in developed countries to tend to the most seriously ill children. Here are some of the benefits of art therapy in children with chronic illness.
Expression and communication
- Children are able to turn to their art materials to draw and paint a picture of how they are feeling at the moment.
- Most children find it difficult to verbalize how they feel. Because of that, they are encouraged to express their feelings through drawings, paintings, sketches and doodles.
- Their involvement in creative art expression helps them cope with stress and anxiety
- Having a serious illness can be a catastrophic blow to the young patient and his family.
- Art therapy functions in a very unique way for chronically ill children. It helps them cope with the mental and emotional stress that often accompanies their battle with illness.
- Art allows the children to forget about the pain of their illness – even if just for a while, and just relax.
- Art gives them a Sense of control and mastery
- Art therapy can be liberating to the young patient and their families as it provides them an opportunity to make a decision and create a sense of control. This is especially true since most of them feel like they have no control over what the illness does to them.
- In art therapy, they are free to choose what to draw or paint, what colors to choose and even decide whether they want to keep or throw the final product at the end of the activity.
- Mind and body work together.
Not for young children only:
Art therapy is not only for little kids. With persistence and dedication, the medical art therapist can engage adolescents in meaningful creative work. Demonstrating interest, support, and respect for the adolescent’s autonomy form the foundation of meaningful engagement. Maintaining a client-centered focus is especially important with adolescents – for therapy to be meaningful, the goals must belong to the patient. In medicine, the therapist most often initiates the therapeutic process. Art therapy can be a window to the world outside the hospital, and a valuable way to help an adolescent patient’s voice be heard by his or her family and the medical team.
- Art Assessments
Art therapists have developed many methods of evaluating personality through art. Most of these are aimed at enlightening symptoms of mental illness. In medicine, the goal is usually to uncover strengths, coping mechanisms, and qualities of resilience.
Spontaneous pictures too, can help the art therapist understand the patient’s strengths, skills and understanding, especially when children discuss the meaning of their artwork with the therapist.