Art Therapy

I'm interested in whether anyone has experimented with art or music therapy? It's partly for personal motivations, but also for a research project I'm doing. If you have found art therapy to be of any help, whether self-initiated or in a formal structure, i.e. with a therapist, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

How does it make you feel? Does it help you to open up and communicate with others? Have you experienced any physiological benefits?

7 Replies

  • Hello enicholson 15,good to see someone is experimenting in the art therapy area,I am an artist,have been for 40 years,I did 4 workshops with a group called ' communicating chronic pain',they have a web site plus on Facebook,very interesting art works by people living with chronic pain,I did work with photo imaging,sound workshop and another on the relationship on space and chronic pain.I do find when I do allow myself to get and DO art work it does not only distract but gets the mind to think on something else,even if only for a few seconds or minutes,rather than the mind relentlessly wound up in chronic pain,I am now in pain constantly in my legs.I went to Tate Modern last Monday with my mobility scooter to see a small show by Louise Bourgoise,drawing exhibition,she lived into her late 90's but had chronic insomnia,she would during her waking hours paint just in red ink,painting after painting,she found doing repetitive geometric shapes quite calming.Well I have now set a desk in my bedroom,big sketch book,and now just even for ten minutes picking up a brush and not thinking of what happens,even if you don't think you can draw,everyone can pick up a pen and doodle.I'd wish anyone to just have a go when screening with pain,hope you find some good links on the forum,I can e.mail you with more info on groups etc,

    BW wendy

  • Wendy, this is fantastic thank you. I'm in the process of putting together a research proposal for my master's dissertation, and my interests are leaning towards the area of art therapy. With my own chronic pain treatment and my brother's experience with ME and music, I think I have identified a good area to look at. Although there are arts strategies in place in hospitals, I always find it very depressing in adult hospital wards which are grey and miserable in comparison to children's wards. It seems to me that the attempt to employ the arts is very passive in adult medicine and only addressed in the same way as yoga or counselling might be suggested, i.e. an optional extra that you organise in your own time.

    I have always been arty, working with watercolours, graphics and film and photography, and also enjoy playing the piano as a form of escape. Recently, as my condition has worsened, I have done a lot more art, and I have found it to be really relaxing and, as you say, an opportunity to distract the mind.

    I have also found that by visualising my 'story', I can communicate what is going on a lot better than I can verbally.

    Thanks for the info, I'm going to look up the groups you have mentioned.

    Have a good day!

  • Hi again,just thought of another book you maybe interested in,'Perceptions on Pain' by Debora Padfield' it's on Amazon,I worked with her in one workshop,but the book was produced at the Input pain management programme at St Thomas hospital,patients photos and individual stories of living in chronic pain.

    Now I must stop! All this technology I find tiring

    BW wendy

  • I was on a 20 min rotation of sitting, standing walking and lying for 3 months at the beginning of my treatment. (13 years ago). After 3 months the time gradually increased. It was tedious. I was bored with books, magazines and TV. I needed something to pick up and put down, that grabbed my attention for short bursts. That made the recovery schedule worthwhile. I got a bear making kit. I used to sew so it was an extension of what I already knew. I now make and sell bears. It was the start of my business. I run a sewing studio that mainly does contract work now, but I also design and make my own products.

    I never lost the habit of working in short bursts, changing what I do every hour or so. And working for myself, I can take breaks when I feel like it. I find the repetitiveness of batch sewing meditative, I take as long as I want (a compromise with myself not to become a sweat shop). My work is as much therapy as it is work.

    I have a fabric collection, chosen mainly for colours and combinations. I get it out from time to time just to look at them, absorb the colours, feel the textures. I used to spend a lot of time just looking at fabric swatches on line. But have reduced it to my collection.

    I don't draw or paint much, and many of my own designs are made straight from my head. If I have to produce a design or pattern for a client, I calm my mind by looking at my palm and drawing all the tiny wrinkles while focusing on my palm. It was something we were encouraged to do in art class at school.

    I meditate and use a colour change meditation to switch the pain off. I am exploring capturing some of the images in art work. Pain can be beautiful!

    I have recently discovered study music (daughter panicking about uni exams) - you tube - and prefer this when I'm working to pop or even classical music. It's soothing and goes with the machine noises well. I'm not musical and would not enjoy making music, even random noise music, any attempts so far have been disasterous. I am sensitive to noise and alot of music doesn't sit well with me.

    I do have a game on my tablet called fish pond. You breed different coloured fish, touch the screen and it sounds like water. It has a selection of zen type music to choose from. It's a way to play with sound and colour and is immediate if I need it.

    I also dip in and out of another one. I can't remember what it's called - I don't have it at the moment. The screen becomes a keyboard, and you slide your fingers over it. Where you put pressure, you get a sound and coloured smoke clouds appear and follow the trail of your finger. They change when you use other fingers. There's a choice of sounds too. For me it's the colour patterns that are important, the sound is secondary. It's very relaxing and could be meditative if used that way. I can find it if you want more details.

    So although I don't really make art, I play with colour, design and texture in my work. I play with colour and sound as relaxation and meditation. As for benefits, it keeps my pain in the background, I have a choice of things to do if it needs topping up, and things that can be done in public too - it's not always convenient to meditate, but you can take your phone out and play a game.

    I like the sound of the sea and have some videos that I play from time to time. They have a calming effect and I often disappear into a meditation taking my imaginary dog for a walk along the beach. It's not music though.

    It probably sounds like I spend most of my time in meditation. In reality nowadays it may just be a couple of times a week for a proper meditation and top ups daily. I think it's important to have a variety of methods and not just rely on one. Even though they are simular, they are very different.

    Good luck with your research. Art and music are important to everyone.

  • Wow, Zanna, thank you so much for taking the time to share this, it's a hugely valuable insight. You say that what you do isn't art, but I think that as it is creation of an item involving the creative design process that it most certainly is. And I would say that art and music are forms of meditation In themselves.

    Thank you!

  • I've said it many times before, my pain has enriched my life. I've taken time and explored creativity both with and without meditation, I've created a business around it, so I get to be creative every day. From the business Side I have also dabbled in web design, photography etc. I much prefer doing things myself, learning for learnings sake as it were. It's another great distraction.

    Without pain, I would be stuck in a dead end office job - a good job but not exciting, not stretching, with a lot of stress. Pain has given me the chance to explore creativity. To develop coping strategies around creativity.

    When pain enters your world, I think it's perfectly acceptable to reinvent your life, to accommodate it, to suppress it, and respect it. How many people do you hear say they wish they could change things - we are given that opportunity. We just need to work out what to do. Pain does not have to be a negative experience.

  • Wow, inspiring!

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