You don’t need to be an artistic or creative person to benefit from art therapy. Studies show that art can be an effective outlet for stress and pain relief. Specifically, art therapy can be useful for patients suffering from chronic pain. Chronic pain is defined as a pain lasting longer than 3-6 months after the injury.1 Chronic pain has also been associated with higher rates of anxiety, depression, and anger.1 The cost of chronic pain can also put a financial burden on families, causing a further increase in stress.1
Art therapy can also be useful for anyone experiencing stress in their lives. One study showed a statistically significant reduction of the level of the stress hormone cortisol in healthy adults after just 45 minutes of doing art.2
Art therapy can be a way to channel one’s emotions to produce something beautiful and heartfelt. Sometimes it can be difficult to put feelings into words that others can understand. Making art can be a way to help yourself and others understand what you are going through without the frustration of finding the right words to express yourself.3 Art is not limited to drawing and painting. Other basic project ideas can include: mask making, box making, visual poetry, card making, jewelry and beading, clay, crochet and knitting, to name a few.3
For some people, art therapy can simply be a channel for reducing stress and a way to relax at the end of a long day. For others, art therapy can be part of the treatment of chronic pain. In 2010, chronic pain costs in the US were a staggering $635 billion.5 Art therapy as a non-invasive treatment can be part of the solution for reducing this the burden.
There are professional art therapists; and this post is not meant to overlook what they do. If this is something that you find helpful and would like more professional guidance on the matter, the American Art Therapy association is a good place to start: https://arttherapy.org/
- Angheluta A, Lee B. Art Therapy for Chronic Pain: Applications and Future Directions. Canadian Journal Of Counselling And Psychotherapy[serial online]. January 1, 2011;45(2):112-131. Available from: ERIC, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 30, 2017.
- Kaimal G, Ray K, Muniz J. Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making. Art Therapy. 2016;33(2):74-80. doi:10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832.
- American Chronic Pain Association. Art of Pain Management. The ACPA website. https://theacpa.org/uploads/Art_and_Music_final.pdf. 2013. Accessed April 30, 2017.
- American Art Therapy Association. The Art Therapy website. https://arttherapy.org/. 2017. Accessed April 30, 2017.
- Gaskin D, Richard P. The economic costs of pain in the United States. The Journal Of Pain: Official Journal Of The American Pain Society[serial online]. August 2012;13(8):715-724. Available from: MEDLINE, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 30, 2017.