Art Therapy For Pain

The creation of art, in the form of art therapy, is gaining legitimacy as a treatment for chronic pain. Art therapy is a type of mental health treatment in which clients are facilitated by an art therapist in using art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore feelings, manage emotional conflicts, increase self-awareness and self-esteem, improve behavior, build social skills, and reduce stress. The general goals for outcomes of art therapy can be to improve a client’s functioning and sense of wellbeing.

Art therapy stems from the theory that creativity and healing come from the same place in the mind. As chronic pain is recognized as not only a physical condition, but as having psychological and social aspects, it makes sense that mental health care providers would utilize art therapy as a potential intervention within a comprehensive treatment plan for patients suffering for chronic pain.

Music therapy, visual arts therapy, creative dance, and movement-based creative therapy have all been used in the treatment of patients with chronic pain. Art therapists can help people to purposefully communicate their pain to the outside world. Experts say that it can help chronic pain sufferers to begin to understand and address the full impact that chronic pain has in their life, and how physical and psychological reactions and symptoms are intertwined.

Research studies provide some compelling examples of art therapy in action. One 2005 study reported chronic pain patients achieved pain relief by resolving psychological issues related to their past through music and dance therapy. A case study from a 2004 report described a 79-year old woman who got pain relief after undergoing art therapy in which she created a painting representing her pain as a ‘pain monster’ and the defeat of the monster. Three other studies reported chronic pain sufferers getting temporary pain relief through art therapy, as they were distracted from their pain while creating the artwork.

For more information about art therapy, you can visit the website of the American Art Therapy Association at http://www.arttherapy.org/ .

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