Art therapy – study proves the benefits for hospital patients

April 11, 2019
Claudia Hillemand - Senior Associate in the Child Brain Injury team

Posted by: Claudia Hillemand


Art therapy is an established form of psychotherapy which uses arts-based activities in a therapeutic environment, with the support of a trained professional.  Depending on a client’s needs, art therapy sessions can be provided in groups or individually and no previous experience is necessary.

Through art therapy, users are able to address emotional issues which may be confusing or distressing to talk about out loud.  This is perhaps why art therapy can be so helpful to children and adults with brain injuries, who may have a wide range of difficulties including behavioural or mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities and neurological conditions.

Although primarily influenced by psychoanalysis, art therapists have adopted and been inspired by theories such as attachment-based psychotherapy, which has led to therapists developing a broad range of client-centred approaches such as psycho-educational and mindfulness.

And it works:  research suggests that art therapies may help with a wide variety of physical and mental health issues.  One recent American study (Shella, 2017) found that art therapy improves mood and reduces pain and anxiety when offered at a patient’s bedside during acute hospital treatment.  This will come as no surprise to the many art therapists who work in hospitals who encounter patients with stress reactions as well as fear, confusion and mood changes.  Anxiety and depression are also common experiences in medically ill, hospitalised individuals.  At Cleveland Clinic, a large teaching hospital, 195 patients engaged with bedside art therapy sessions and a chart review was used to evaluate the impact on the patients.  The patients had multiple medical diagnoses and were routinely asked to rate their perceptions of mood, anxiety and pain before and after the sessions.  The analysis of pre-and post-results indicated significant improvements in pain, mood and anxiety levels for all patients regardless of age, gender or diagnosis.

Clearly art therapy has a huge potential to help people with complex needs, including those who have suffered brain injury, such as the clients who I and my colleagues represent.

If you would like to obtain more information about art therapy or find a therapist who might be able to assist you, further information can be found on the British Association of Art Therapists’ website: https://www.baat.org/.

Claudia Hillemand is a partner in the Child Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp.  If you would like to make a claim on behalf of a brain-injured child, contact Claudia free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4843 or at claudiahillemand@boltburdonkemp.co.uk.  Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Child Brain Injury team will contact you.  Find out more about the Child Brain Injury team.

Posted by: Claudia Hillemand

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