Art and Art Therapy in Medicine


Art and Art Therapy in Medicine

Twenty years ago I was in my final semester of grad school and smack dab in the middle of a practicum at a university cancer center.  I was in heaven.  Aware that art therapists working in the world of physical—rather than psychiatric—medicine were rare, I wanted to blaze a trail in mind-body medicine and establish a career in medical art therapy.  I was way ahead of my time.


It took almost two decades for me to lay that dream to rest, but in those years some forward movement in psychoneuroimmunology has allowed art therapy to begin taking root in medical institutions.  There’s definitely more work to be done in terms of identifying biomarkers that are responsive to art therapy interventions, thus substantiating medical art therapy’s role in treating disease, but at least art therapists have their feet in the doors of medicine’s hallowed halls now.  This provides opportunities for people with physical illness to work toward wellness with the choice and control inherent to creativity—something that was almost unheard of not that long ago.  Consider the fortunate individuals who benefit from these medical art therapy programs:


Appreciation for the general use of art in medical centers is also on the rise.  Enhancing an individual’s experience of treatment through access to art is becoming mainstream as we understand more and more about the connection between the arts and health outcomes.  Although none of us truly want the services of the following institutions, think about how un-institution-like their stance on art in medicine is:


While I hope your life adventures keep you away from medical facilities in general, it’s reassuring to know that the medical arts now include art.  If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, imagine what a dose of art can do for your mind and body.  Make two doodles and call me in the morning.         


With appreciation for the important work you do,

Megan March 2012

About the Image on This Page

This is a thumbnail of The Dance of Life, created by Edvard Munch circa 1899. The original work is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired per US copyright laws; this may or may not apply to other countries as well. Click here for more information.