the official magazine of the brain injury association of california

Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States (US) sustain a brain injury. Many treatments are being studied to help these patients to recover and regain their normal lives — art therapy is one. Art therapy is a distinct discipline that incorporates creative methods of expression through visual art media. Art therapy, as a creative arts therapy profession, originated in the fields of art and psychotherapy and may vary i definition. This modality aids in the ecovery process by allowing the patient to do something they enjoy while working on various functional skills such as fine moto skills, gross motor skills, standing tolerance, endurance, communication, expression of feelings, relaxation, socialization, memory, and problem-solving skills. In the inpatient setting, art therapy can be used daily with both pediatric and adult patients. This form of treatment allows patients to be creative while simultaneously motivating them. The format for this type of therapy can be straightforward, for example, drawing and painting, or the approach can be much more creative. Take for example a pediatric patient with traumatic brain injury who was very interested in coloring and painting. To help with her walking and coordination, her therapist painted her feet and had her walk throughout the facility. This allowed the patient and her family to see the progress she made through the footprints she created. She was allowed to express herself daily by choosing the colors for her footprints and was motivated to continue walking more each day.

Art therapy is also being explored as a form of complementary and integrative care for military veterans affected by trauma and injuries in the line of duty includin traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The self-soothing qualities of making art can most certainly aid in TBI recovery. Art therapy offers many psychologica and cognitive benefits for patients after a TBI and als helps improve mood, problem-solving skills, attention, and coordination. Most importantly, making art helps patients find a healthy outlet for their emotions, and ebuild their sense of self, something few other therapies can offer after traumatic brain injury.