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Introduction We are born creative. According to some ethologists, creativity is not just a cultural need, but a biologically based urge. People have been engaging in art as a behaviour for at least the last 250, 000 years. The persistence of art making behaviours over time, their central role in most human societies and their association with pleasure, all point to the notion that art must have survival value for our species (Dissanayake, 1988). The visual arts, both past and present, are a vehicle through which we express what is important, significant and special. Ellen Dissanayake suggests, “perhaps the most outstanding feature of art in primitive societies is that it is inseparable from daily life” (p.44). She goes on to state that “what the arts were for, an embodiment and reinforcement of socially shared significances, is what we crave and are perishing for today” (p.200).
What is art therapy? Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that facilitates creative expression and symbolic dialogue through simple art making activities. It is based on the premise that our capacity to visualise a thought or feeling can lead to greater personal understanding and insight. Art is a way of knowing. In Art Therapy the individual client or group members are invited to explore their situation through the art materials. This is facilitated by an art therapist. The art making process offers an opportunity to make sense of their experience by giving a concrete form to thoughts and feelings which may be difficult to verbalise. Drawing, painting, making a collage, talking about a certain topic, dream or memory, may all be relevant starting points. The very act of creating is immensely absorbing and satisfying. It can enable people to connect internal and external reality, to bring order out of chaos, to foster empowerment and selfesteem and to facilitate the process of letting go.
Art therapy is a symbolic language of inner experience. Whether the person is in a mental health setting suffering depression. In using art therapy to help patients face issues surrounding their own death. or an individual seeking support to manage a particular life transition. we may well feel that it is impossible to describe deep matters of the heart within the narrow confines of language. wonder and reflection that offer riches beyond the boundaries of dry. Perhaps delicate painted blue lines on a page could symbolise feelings of peacefulness gained during meditation whereas deep. It is concerned with making art that is unique and personal to you. intuitively. As the old adage goes. 1993). more rounded view of our situation. expressing a richer. What are the benefits for people living with cancer? Art therapy can provide a distinctive means of addressing the psychological. handmade expressions evoke qualities of feeling. cope and heal the pain associated with inevitable loss of life (Malchoidi. Whereas language often tends to result in a ‘this’ or ‘that’ categorisation. Art Therapy can be used to foster personal growth and resolve inner conflict. logical thought. All of us have difficulty in finding words to express things that are precious. One of the main advantages of Art Therapy as a treatment process is that it can be made accessible to a wide variety of people with different needs and expectations. In fact. “a picture is worth a thousand words”. The mystery of these things is frequently beyond language. emotional and spiritual needs of terminally ill patients. . art therapists consistently observe the power and potential of art to help identify. Who is it for? People come to Art Therapy with a variety of issues and concerns. or a rehabilitation centre coping with a physical impairment. These visual. imagery is wholistic. It requires no special skills or ability just a willingness to use the art materials in an exploratory way. complex or painful to us. jagged marks in clay could speak of the aching loss of a loved one.
The results of a recent preliminary study indicate that the management of chronic pain can benefit from the inclusion of expressive arts therapies. 1996. 1985. and many see Art Therapy as an important adjunct to medical treatments (Baron. thereby releasing tension and working through problems. depression levels were lower (Beck Depression Inventory). Ziesler. • stimulating the imagination and concentrating attention away from symptoms of pain. 1993. such as art/music therapy and journal writing. 1999).The benefits of art therapy in palliative care include: • encouraging the exploration and expression of difficult or overwhelming thoughts and feelings about death and dying. Predeger. For the majority of the participants in this study. • providing families with a way to create special memories and tangible art objects during the dying process that give surviving loved ones a way to remember and grieve during bereavement. In the literature on Art Therapy programs in medical settings. many authors attest to the role of art as a healing agent. • enhancing coping skills and accessing new sources of strength. Hyslop. Opportunities to distract oneself from pain and experience oneself as being able to create although still in pain were very important to all the participants. 1993). • providing a therapeutic process in which to explore issues beyond the physical or terminal condition. hope and selfunderstanding. Conclusion . insight. anxiety levels decreased (StateTrait Anxiety Inventory) and the selfreport pain management abilities were reported to be higher (Camic. • • reducing stress through opportunities to create something new. ie. spiritual/existential concerns.
The knowledge and feelings that can come through one’s images cannot arrive in any other way.42 61). Malchiodi (Ed. (1999). Making art can help distract patients from pain and guide them in drawing meaning from their pain. P. 6. Art is a way of knowing. (Art Therapy). . a series of art therapy workshops designed to help cancer patients improve their lives by developing their own personal creativity. Expanding treatment possibilities for chronic pain through the expressive arts. She is currently offering The Creative Journey. being with the present and envisioning a future.The image making process is available to anyone willing to take up a pencil. Art is a way of exploring what it means to be human. Making art is a way of breaking boundaries.Ed. Camic. What is Art For?. explore and mourn the different losses and transitions that they are experiencing.). Medical Art Therapy With Adults (p. The program can be facilitated in any healthcare setting by negotiation. Group work with cancer patients. P. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. recalling the past. WA: University of Washington Press.2236. It has particular benefits for those struggling to live life with cancer. As a freelance art therapist. B. Pratt Institute and Creative Arts Therapy Review. (1985). Fiona Fitzptrick. (1998). paintbrush or lump of clay. M. Fiona works with individuals and facilititates groups for people seeking creative tools with which to explore their personal story. References: Baron.A. p. In C. E. Fiona welcomes enquiries and can be contacted on (02) 9552 6360. Dissanayake. It also encourages relaxation and offers opportunities to remember.
Journal of Cancer Care. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. Predeger. Introduction of special issue: Art and Medicine. . p. p. Journal of Cancer Care. 18(3). Art therapy A meaningful part of cancer care.6874.4858. Ziesler. S. Malchiodi.107111. 2.Hyslop. (1993). (1993). Womanspirit: A journey into healing through art in breast cancer. C. The use of clay as part of “healing“ in palliative care. (1993).69. Advances in Nursing Science. (2). (1996). E. p. p. 10. 2. A.
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