Art therapy: Another way to help manage pain

Closeup of brush and palette.

When we were kids, art time was often the best part of grammar school. Who didn’t enjoy coloring, drawing, painting, and cutting-and-pasting? It was fun, relaxing, and you got a wonderful euphoric feeling from creating something you made. We need to get back to that child activity. It turns out that making art can be a powerful therapeutic tool for adults, especially in the treatment and management of pain. Called art therapy, this type of psychotherapy can help modify your response to emotional and physical problems related to pain.

“Art therapy does not replace the need for pain medication, but it can be used as an effective complement and reduce perceptions of pain experiences,” says Kelsey A. Skerpan, an art therapist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “It can help people better manage the symptoms of stress and anxiety that accompany pain, which assists with the recovery process and improves quality of life.”

How art therapy helps ease pain

Art therapy helps lower the perception of pain by moving your mental focus away from the painful stimulus. It is not simply a distraction, but rather a way to teach you how to relax and alter your mood, so the pain doesn’t control your emotional state.

study in the February 2018 issue of The Arts in Psychotherapy looked at almost 200 people hospitalized for a medical issue or surgery. The researchers found that participating in art therapy for an average of 50 minutes significantly improved their moods, and lowered levels of pain and anxiety.

“When people are in pain, they often lose their sense of control since their pain dictates what they can and cannot do,” says Skerpan. “Engaging in art therapy helps them reclaim ownership in their lives in terms of what art they choose and the steps they take to create something unique. It can provide a powerful form of self-expression as well as a creative outlet.”

Art therapy is not to be confused with regular art classes. While they both create art, art therapy involves working with a registered or board-certified art therapist who guides you through the creative process while exploring how it relates to your pain.

For instance, you may focus on making a piece of art that represents what your pain looks like on that particular day, and then discuss how the pain is connected to the different lines, shapes, and colors you create. “Processing art like this can help people further explore their condition, which may encourage them to talk more openly about how making art affects them, their mood, and their pain,” says Skerpan.

Finding the form of art therapy that works for you

You don’t have to be an artist to benefit from art therapy. The type of art you do doesn’t matter either. In fact, Skerpan encourages people to consider all kinds of artistic expression, including printmaking, mixed media, woodworking, and ceramics. “You also could revisit something you enjoyed in the past, or an art form you are interested in learning more about,” she says.

Typical sessions are weekly and last 30 to 60 minutes. The length and number can change as needed. While sessions are often individual at first, they may expand into a group support setting, which offers a chance for people to share their experiences with others. Think of it as a grown-up version of show and tell.

Finding an art therapist

Art therapy is practiced by a registered art therapist (ATR) or board-certified art therapist (ATR-BC) who has earned a master’s degree approved by the American Art Therapy Association, and has had supervised clinical experience in the field. You can find certified art therapists through the American Art Therapy Association.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

 “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” – Proverbs 12:25

 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” – Luke 12:25

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11

 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” – James 1:2-3

 “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:6

 “Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.”- Proverbs 16:3

 “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” Luke 12:24 – Luke 12:24

 “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” – Matthew 15:11

 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” – Matthew 12:33

 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

Recommended contacts for prayer request and Bible study

www.adventistontario.org

www.agapetemplesda.com

https://www.hopetv.org

https://breathoflife.tv/

http://www.nadadventist.org/article/15/contact-us

http://3abn.org/all-streams/3abn.html

tps://www.adventist.org/en/utility/contact/

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