How Using Art Therapy for Chronic Pain Can Help

Art Therapy for Chronic Pain

Try Art Therapy for Chronic Pain Management

Art therapy for chronic pain or any other chronic condition is not new. The use of art for its healing qualities had been used for centuries and is connected with other fields such as psychology, anthropology, art history, and psychiatry.

Anthropologists suggest that art was used even during the prehistoric times in rituals that involved dance, music and visual imagery.

Art therapy is now defined as a specific form of psychotherapy that uses art-making as the primary form of communication and self-expression with the goal of improving and enhancing the physical, mental and emotional well being of people of all ages.

According to the principles of art therapy, the process of making art is therapeutic and can help to resolve emotional problems, increase coping skills and interpersonal relationships, develop strategies to solve problems and boosts the self-esteem and self-awareness.

The patient does not need to have special artistic skills or background because this process is focused on self-discovery, self-expression and personal growth.

Why Use Art Therapy for Chronic Pain

Why use art therapy for chronic pain? The mind and body are strongly connected.

If the chronic pain is not well managed, it leaves a person feeling hopeless and discouraged, and the link between pain and depression is well established. By using art therapy, a person will be able to express their feelings and emotions, resolve internal conflicts and get a better inside of the nature of the pain.

The role of art therapy for chronic pain is based on the biopsychological approach to pain and the “gate control theory “ (GCT) pain.

According to GCT theory, the pain is primarily influenced on the impulses transmitted from the site of injury to a region in the spinal cord labeled “the gate.” In the “gate” the signals are processed before continuing to the brain and feel the sensation of pain.

Emotional and cognitive factors influence the messages that arrive at the brain and art therapy works precisely at these levels.

In one study, the participants used music, visual art and writing, and some other forms of psychotherapy for chronic pain management. The study suggests that these therapies helped with depression, anxiety and decrease pain levels.

About Art Therapists and the Methods Used in Practice

How is different an art therapy session from a regular art class? Of course, you can start using art at home, or take a class- it will help you become more relaxed, calm and creative. However, for optimal (and therapeutic) benefits you should talk to an art therapist

In addition to helping you create art, a medical art therapist will encourage you to employ various methods (like drawing, painting, sculpture, and collage),  talk about the images you created, and discover their insight and meaning.

Carl Jung developed so-called active imagination, where you use an image to freely associate your thoughts and feelings that would come spontaneously and your mind and associate with that image. Other techniques involved Gestalt therapy or so-called “the third hand” technique.

When it comes to academics background, art therapists have a masters degree in art therapy or a related field in addition to training in psychology, while some have specialized knowledge of studio art.

Next page: Read about Erin Scott’s experience using art therapy for chronic pain and how it has helped her cope with her condition. 

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Brenda VantaBrenda Vanta

Dr. Brindusa (Brenda) Vanta received her MD from Iuliu Hatieganu University of Medicine, Romania, and her HD diploma from Ontario College of Homeopathic Medicine. Her main focuses are nutrition and homeopathy.

Oct 20, 2017
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