Sunday, November 20, 2011

Guest Blog: Fabric Meditation

I was honored to have a request from Allison Brooks to be a guest blogger here on "Adventures in Art Therapy." She describes herself as "very passionate about enlightening people about the benefits natural and integrative therapies can have on multiple diseases and illnesses." As a result, she wrote a very timely article on the benefits of art therapy - specifically fabric arts with quilting - with those who suffer from cancer. A little bit about Allie - she attended the University of Mississippi and earned her degree in Biomedical Anthropology. She is now studying in the field to finish an ethnography on the effects of biomedicalization on Bolivian Cultures. Please enjoy her contribution!

The Art of Therapy

How art and medicine are working together

From the dawn of man, art has been used as a way to release creativity, tell a story, decorate hallways, and maybe poke fun of an enemy. But no matter what, art is a visual or verbal way to express a person’s emotions, character, and insight; basically an extension of the artist. Even though it seems like a way to pass time, to make a gift, or continue a hobby, art is making its debut in hospitals all around the world as a way to manage stress and release feelings during cancer treatments.

Though cancer is a physical issue, it is very common for cancer patients to encounter severe emotional and psychological malaise. This is where art therapy comes into play. Dr. Josee Leclerc, who has a private practice for art therapy, states, “Art therapy really allows for an expression that words would not. The goal is to allow for emotions that are too difficult to put into works, or to use the image as a mirror or a witness of what the person is feeling, experiencing, or going through.”

The most notable of the cancer art therapies are the quilting projects. There have been multiple quilting programs in hospitals around the United States. Deborah Theriault has been facilitating quilting projects in the major cities of New Brunswick for years and stated, “This form of therapy gave them an avenue that changed their focus and spiritually took them away from their hospital beds and away from their sickness.” These quilts then go on to be a testament of their battle for survivors, and for the patients that did not survive, the quilts become a fond memory for the families.

Lin Swensson is another quilt therapist which travels to different hospitals to offer lessons. She encourages patients to either paint their stories on swatches of fabric or use pieces donated by local fabric stores. Patients find the quilting very therapeutic and often make quilts for one another. One lady, named Kate Graves, said that the quilts were “something tangible that could express far more than a get-well card.”

“Building Blocks” Kate Graves

Though this form of art therapy is not considered a form of cancer treatment, it is gaining a solid reputation as an alternative way to rehabilitate cancer patients. Many doctors recommend patients diagnosed with a low-survivability rate or aggressive cancer, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or pleural mesothelioma, to look into a form of art therapy. Even though every cancer is a serious cancer, the ones with the harsher treatments drain the person of morale quicker. Art therapy is not only an escape from the typical treatment routine, but it also improves self-esteem and gives the patient a sense of control when it seems out of reach.

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