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Using art therapy to draw out cures

The treatment - aimed at exploring the therapeutic effect of art in healing the mind and body - helps patients express themselves without using words. Jaya Shroff Bhalla reports. Quiz

india Updated: Nov 19, 2012 01:32 IST
Jaya Shroff Bhalla

Dhruv Anand (name changed), 6, refused to eat food after his cerebral palsy surgery. Depressed and reticent, Anand even hated the sight of his favourite pizza. It was then that Dr Manoj Padman, his treating orthopaedic surgeon at Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurgaon, suggested that he underwent art therapy alongside his regular allopathic medicines.

Doctors introduced him to Archana Singh, an art therapist trained in the US who turned the little boy around. Singh herself got into the garb of being 'magician aunty' who had come to take away all his pain. The effect of therapy was so good that Anand ate food for the first time in two days. On day two of the therapy, he was made to play with a ball-an action, which the therapist told him, was a way to throw away the pain and 'magician aunty' who stood in another corner of the room caught the ball-an action which depicted that she took hold of Anand's pain and pretended to throw all the pain out of the window.

Iraqi patient Adam Ismael, 8, who underwent brain surgery also sunk into depression post surgery. Dr Sandeep Vaishya, his neurosurgeon, prescribed art therapy for quicker healing. After a day's session with Singh, Ismael bonded so well with her that he insisted that she fed her. "Each case is different and has to be handled in its own unique way. In Ismael's case, we used a lot of Iraqi and Hindi film music and dance along with a lot of colour," said Singh. "We also painted Ismael's face depicting a tiger. This activity enabled Adam adopt the role of a ferocious tiger who was ready to fight the disease head on," she explained.

Art therapy, primarily used for helping those with mental disorders, is now being used by doctors in mainstream medicine to help patients suffering from chronic illnesses like haemophilia, cancer and immune and renal disorders. Fortis group has introduced an unexplored dimension of healing through a unique concept called art and health. The programme is aimed at exploring the therapeutic effect of art in healing the mind and the body. "All patients from the critically ill in-patient, patient attendants, hospital care givers, differently abled individual as well as the community engage in the process and express their anguish and distress," said Singh.

"Multiple art forms are used in customised formats as mediums of intervention as patients behave differently to different mediums and therapies have to customised," she said.

According to doctors, art therapy cultivates creativity in an individual and creativity is directly connected to longevity. "The creative process of art - painting works towards lifting the morale of the person in pain - it also increases the cognitive skills, decreases neuroses, stimulate the senses, and brings new lease of life and energy," Dr Deepak Gupta, child psychiatrist at Sir Gangaram Hospital who has been using art - as a medium to build rapport with kids for a decade now.

"The introduction of a wide variety of art materials - clay, paints, pastels, markers, charcoal and sparkles - gives the patient an atmosphere of freedom where they feel free to express with colours-especially those emotions which they otherwise don't say in words and this art work is used by the trained art therapists use to understand the brain function of the child and give them a direction," he said.

Experts were so far primarily using it on children to help them vent out their pent up emotions but now they are also using it on adults. "Art is a medium of expression of thoughts,feelings, perceptions and creative potential," said Dr Sameer Malhotra, chief psychiatrist and psychotherapist at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket.

"Art helps in analysing, understanding as well as channelising the energies of mind. Art is also used as a medium to understand the human mind," said Dr Malhotra, explaining, "If a patient is suffering from depression his paintings and sketches will reflect the same Even the use of colours convey what is in the mind, which the patient is finding it difficult to express."

Although experts agree that art therapy isn't a substitute for medication but it definitely helps the patient in getting a control over his emotions and self.

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