Art therapy has positive therapeutic effects on clinically complex cases like MS, brain injury, ALS, and Parkinson’s Disease, to name a few. Here, we list art therapy activities for adults with these and other neuro conditions.
Art therapy is becoming more and more popular as it has shown positive effects on a patient’s social, mental, and psychological well-being. But, can art therapy be an effective and reliable treatment approach to rehabilitate patients with a neurological condition or brain injury? This is a long-standing question and has been researched aggressively. Here, we discuss the benefits of art therapy outside of the “standard of care” treatments for neurological conditions as well as art therapy activities for adults – something worth trying as this unique treatment has little to no side effects.
Conventional Treatment for Neurological Conditions
Diseases involving the nervous system are progressive in nature. A person with a condition such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), ALS, or Parkinson’s Disease (PD) experiences continual changes to their physical abilities, which directly impacts their psychological well-being. The conventional medicine approach includes the use of pharmacological agents, physiotherapy, and pain management with the goal of reducing the symptoms of the disease. But, unfortunately, most neurological disorders have no known cure so any treatment aimed at reducing symptoms does not address the disease progression.
Furthermore, the majority of conventional remedies used to treat neurological conditions are often targeted at decreasing physical symptoms, but fail to treat the psychological (emotional) state of mind. If anything, prescription medications can cause more depression, anxiety, or hallucination-type symptoms. This is why many neuro patients will end up taking antipsychotics (i.e. haloperidol) on top of their other prescriptions.
Art Therapy as a Holistic Approach for Neurological Conditions
Art therapy is considered a holistic approach to treating neurological conditions as it affects not only physical well-being, but psychological and social well-being as well. In particular, research demonstrates that art therapy interventions can help:
- create a stable and positive sense of self
- regulate thoughts and behaviors
- improve social skills
- improve problem-solving skills
- develop emotional resilience
- increase participation in physical rehabilitation
- decrease pain
When to Use Art Therapy
Art therapy is proven useful when issues such as limited language capacity and inability to express oneself are present. Art therapy can also benefit patients suffering from depression and anxiety. In particular, art therapy improves a patient’s ability to express his or her internal conflicts, mood, and to relieve suppressed emotions. Last, art therapy has shown benefit in neurological patients with impaired cognition.
One case study demonstrated significant improvement in cognition noted on the MMSE and MVPT tests conducted prior to and after art therapy treatment. The interesting thing to note here is that the case study was done on a chronic stroke patient that showed positive therapeutic effects from the art therapy.
Art Therapy Activities for Adults with Neuro Conditions or Brain Injury
There are a variety of art therapy activities for adults, particularly for those with neurological disorders or a history of brain injury. Activities include:
- painting or water coloring
- sewing or knitting
- creating a collage of newspaper or magazine clippings
- creating a mural on a piece of paper incorporating soft materials (cotton balls, cloth, etc.)
- making a “heart” box out of shoebox (patients place notes about thoughts, feelings, or stressors in their personal heart box as a way of relieving emotions)
- designing cards or postcards
- making puppets
To learn more about art therapy activities for adults, visit the American Art Therapy Association website here.
- Czamanski-Cohen, J., Weihs, K.L. The body-mind model: A platform for studying the mechanisms of change induced by art therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 2016; 51: 63-71.
- Giovanni Mirabella. Is Art Therapy a Reliable Tool for Rehabilitating People Suffering from brain/ Mental Diseases? The Journal of Alternative and Complementary 2015; 21 (4).
- Haeyem, Hoorn, S.V., Dehue, F. & Hutschekaekers, G. Development of an art-therapy intervention for patients with personality disorders: an intervention mapping study. International Journal of Art Therapy. 2018; 23 (3): 125-135.
- Kim, S., Kim, M., Lee, J., Chun, S. Art Therapy Outcomes in the Rehabilitation Treatment of a Stroke Patient: A Case Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. 2008; 25 (3): 129-133.