Creativity is Life Force
Typically, when we envision a hospital, we think of a sterile, uninviting scary place-this environment is not the case at our local Lifespan hospitals (Newport, Children’s Hasbro and Miriam). These hospitals, and others across the U.S., are transforming the healthcare experience by encouraging healing art programs to enliven and enrich the hospital environment that ultimately promotes healing within their patients. This rapidly growing field integrates the arts, including literary, performing, and visual arts into the healthcare arena for therapeutic, educational, and expressive purposes.
Art engages our mind, body and spirit. Admiring a work of art or listening to music aren’t just fun but part of a comprehensive health insurance plan. The incorporation of the arts into the healthcare experience has a positive impact on patient health outcomes. As a matter of fact, researchers have established that biochemicals, released from the brain during various mood states affect how well the body repairs itself. Further research shows that the arts can reduce patients' use of pain medication and length of hospital stays, as well as improve compliance with recommended treatments, offering substantial savings in healthcare costs. Arts in healthcare helps connect people with the power of the arts at critical and vulnerable moments of people’s lives. In an atmosphere where the patient often feels powerless, the arts can serve as a therapeutic and healing tool, engaging patient’s to become active participants in their healing journey. Art also has the power to transform the relationship between medical professionals and patients, in that the connection resonates on a more compassionate and respectful human level. Creativity is life force. The act of being creative helps patients process and express, within a constructive manner, emotions we would often rather avoid like guilt, shame, sadness and anger. That’s the power of the creative process. It doesn’t matter what something looks like in the end, it’s what happens in the process of creating, the expression of emotion and the personal insights attained.
For patient’s surviving brain injury they can find solace at the Vanderbilt rehab Newport hospital, where Elizabeth Connallon offers help by providing the opportunity for multi-dimensional healing through a support group and PhotoVoice, a supplemental art therapy. PhotoVoice allows patients to express their healing journey through photographs that they’ve taken which they then exhibit to express their stages of recovery. Healing is not static and Connallon descibes this art therapy as, “a tool for self-expression, communication and exploration. PhotoVoice brings awareness to healing through the eye of the patient.” These self-expressionistic photos are discussed during support group meetings and also exhibited for the public to see.
The brain injury support group meets regularly and if you would like to learn more about this dual program, contact Elizabeth Connallon at 401-461-6599.
Since 1992, Paula Most, founder of the Healing Arts Program at Hasbro Children’s hospital, has been its life force. She has spear-headed multiple programs with the support of local donors (families and businesses alike) as well as Lifespan to create an important dimension to the quality of a patient’s stay at a hospital. Most has structured the Healing Arts Program to fit the therapeutic needs of patients by offering regular visits by healing arts professionals to help normalize a hospital stay. Professional artists, musicians, art historians as well as RISD interns offer patients a way to engage other aspects of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their disease. Patients can choose from actively participating in a regularly scheduled art program, either in a group or private setting, or they can simply accept a piece of art to hang from their hospital room wall to enliven their healing space. “An important component of the program”, states Most, “is that we’re engaging the patient rather than entertaining them”. Most finds honoring the choice of the patient as a critical aspect to this program. When asked about the therapeutic benefits of the program, Most indicated that medical staff have observed less anxiety and better compliance by children who are scheduled for invasive procedures who have earlier engaged in a Healing Arts workshop. For more information, contact Paula Most at 401-444-3153.
For the last two years, Susan Korber has invited musicians to the Adele R. Decof Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Miriam hospital to help oncology patients process their healing journey. The cancer center has been host to flutists, harpists, cellists, violinists, and guitarists, who play for up to 90 minutes, offering patients a healing, tranquil environment. Korber and her staff believe strongly that a therapeutic milieu is a key force in the outcome of treatment. “Cancer care is much more than just chemotherapy, a patient’s environment is crucial to recovery”. Korber also offers patients other complementary therapies such as art therapy, acupuncture, massage, pet therapy, and reiki to support recovery. The center’s mission is to complete the circle of care by integrating mind-body support with conventional medical treatment. Funding is through private donations and a Lifespan foundations grant. An upcoming fundraising opportunity will be here in Newport at the Newport National Golf Club on June 13. Anyone is invited to either play in the tournament or donate prizes. All money raised will go to the foundation to fund complementary therapies. For more information, you can contact Susan Korber at 401-793-2995.
Art inspires us, art soothes us and art collects us as a community. Art therapy wouldn’t exist without the artists, so support art and the artists in your community to communicate your belief in the enormous healing potential that art provides. We, on Aquidneck Island, have a strong artistic community and we must continue to support our neighbors. For more information concerning arts and cultural events in Newport County go to www.newportarts.org
Shawna E.M. Snyder graduated with a Masters degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the New England School of Acupuncture in Boston, MA, a 4-year program. Shawna is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and is licensed as a Doctor of Acupuncture by the State of Rhode Island through the department of health.