Art therapy applications in palliative care: Art therapy has shown to be very effective in the treatment of palliative care. In the United States and Great Britain it is used in hospitals for patients with cancer, AIDS, family care centers, hospices and rehabilitation centers. Often it is mistakenly believed that art therapy is a ‘constructive’ way of evading difficulties.
The reality is quite different, using art therapy patients have the opportunity to communicate what concerns them without resorting to words. Artistic activity, understood as a means to facilitate the expression of emotional content, can help people address their problems more clearly.
Art therapy in palliative care is offered to patients in different ways, both if they are in a bed in the hospital or at their house. Creative activity may consist of drawing, painting, collage, writing or reading poetry, etc.
It is not necessary at all for people who access this service to have experience in the use of artistic materials. Instead, to discover a creative experience, is not only enjoyable but enlightening in many ways and especially in such difficult and painful circumstances that arise from an immediate palliative effect.
With the creative opportunity the patients find a way to express and reflect on the feelings experienced, when coming to terms with an irreversible illness.
These feelings, already in themselves difficult to articulate in words, patients often hide from relatives and friends for fear of making them suffer.
Hospitalization or medical treatments may stir up in the patient difficult feelings such as excessive dependency, powerlessness against disease, loneliness, rage, despair, etc.
At the opposite extreme, when one I near, feelings like gratitude, tenderness or appreciation often appear, these feelings also being difficult to verbally articulate.
The art therapist in palliative work is a fair companion, someone who offers his or her knowledge and experience to give emotional support to patients at the time are certainly more critical of their life.
Exploring our own latent creativity not only allows us to discover our inner strength, but it also enriches our lives with a new beginning in a time which the end occupies the most prominent place.
Often psychotherapy by art in this field is not limited to working with the sick, in many centers and hospice clinic art therapists also work with the families of the sick.
That can be done in various ways: working with the dying at the hospital or at home, with the most vulnerable members of the family during the illness and/or after the death accompanying the mourning process.
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Carles Ramos i Portas,
Director de Arteterapia at Metàfora
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