Using art for therapy

healing touch

Using art for therapy

Medical treatment, these days, is not just restricted to physical healing but emphasising on psychological recovery as well. The trauma associated with an accident or rape, or the depression that overcomes a patient of cancer or mental injuries, cannot be cured with medicines alone. In such cases, art therapy is coming to the rescue.

This technique, which was earlier practiced on asylum inmates only to keep them quiet and engaged, has proven its efficacy on all kinds of patients. People undergoing treatment are being encouraged to ‘draw’ out their feelings, ‘paint’ their expressions and ‘sculpt’ their self-confidence back into shape. Of course, aiding them in this endeavour are trained art therapists who carry out this treatment with utmost creativity and care.

Archana Singh, Art therapist, Fortis Research Institute, Gurgaon informs, “Art therapy is said to have been discovered by UK-based artist Adrian Hill. Adrian was being treated in a tuberculosis sanatorium and realised that keeping himself busy in painting was therapeutic and liberating. After Adrian, many artists and psychologists developed this form of treatment but it became most popular after 9/11 when many patients required trauma-mitigating more than first-aid.”

She further says, “Art therapy need not necessarily deal in painting alone. It can also
include sculpting, embroidery, singing or even drama or dance. The idea is to discover a medium in which the patient is most comfortable to express himself. However, paintings have been found to be most effective for child patients, mentally-ill patients and those with disabilities for the obvious reason  that they can’t practice drama or dance.”

Archana gives Metrolife some interesting examples. An 11-year-old boy with a hole in his heart was extremely scared to undergo surgery. Archana made him draw a ‘brave boy with puffed up muscles’ and told him that it was his portrait. Effectively, the boy started thinking of himself as the boy in the sketch and went thro­ugh the surgery without a cry.
In another instance, a man suffering from cancer was hitting his children out of frustration. Archana asked him to paint a figure which symbolises determination to him and the man drew Goddess Durga. The man was then asked to vow that he would keep a determination like the goddess and never hit his children again. The patient never went back to his old behaviour after that.

Citing a recent case, Pulkit Sharma, clinical psychologist, VIMHANS, says, “We got a girl child who had been sexually abused and was too fearful to even speak to the doctors. We asked her to draw her feelings and she sketched a little doll being torn by several men together. Eventually, she also described the chain of events through the doll in the sketch.”

“Art therapy is still a developing medical field. Doctors, psychologists and artists are still working on it to see how it can be used best on our patients and bring them out of stressful, painful and traumatic situations,” he adds.

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