If you or a loved one just received a mesothelioma diagnosis, you’re likely experiencing a range of emotions. You may feel depression about the present, anxiety about the future or anger toward the parties responsible for exposing you to asbestos. While the latter may be remedied by consulting a mesothelioma lawyer, the other two may benefit from a more tender approach.
One recent study suggests that cancer patients can find some relief from the anxiety, depression and pain of their conditions by turning to creative arts. Of course, painting a picture or taking a dance course won’t cure cancer, but they have the potential to make daily life brighter, and that makes a world of a difference.
What are the benefits of creative art therapy?
If you remember back to the artsy things you did in school as a child – learning how to draw, committing songs to memory, learning how to line dance – it may be hard to believe that any of it can be beneficial for your health. The truth is, though, that the act of expression through creation is very therapeutic.
Experts say that whenever you do something creative, you are using parts of your brain that you may not normally have access to when you’re dealing with heavy issues, such as a cancer diagnosis. These problems can sometimes make people feel paralyzed and powerless to take care of themselves, but once they start getting creative, their ability to focus may become sharper. As a result, life’s issues can seem easier to tackle.
Besides stimulating the problem-solving capabilities of the brain, creative art also provides an outlet for your feelings. It’s never a good idea to keep your emotions to yourself, but it can often be difficult to articulate what you feel into words or conversations. Creative art can give you another way to channel what’s inside you, and lighten the emotional load.
What does the latest science tell us?
One team of scientists from the National Institutes of Health wanted to know more about how cancer patients can benefit from creative art therapy. In their investigation, the researchers reviewed 27 different studies that were conducted between 1989 and 2011. Altogether, these studies encompassed nearly 1,600 cancer patients, all of whom were assigned to receive creative art therapy, stay on a wait list or continue with their usual treatment.
About 42 percent of hospitalized patients who underwent art therapy had their pain levels cut in half, compared to 8 percent of the other subjects.
Joke Bradt, a music therapist from Drexel University in Philadelphia, told Reuters Health what he thought of the review:
“People with cancer very often feel like their body has been taken over by the cancer. They feel overwhelmed. To be able to engage in a creative process…that stands in a very stark contrast to sort of passively submitting oneself to cancer treatments.”
How do I get started?
The incidence of asbestos-related diseases is expected to climb for the next 10 years or so. This highlights the growing need for more treatments that can improve patients’ quality of life.
Today, a growing number of clinicians are becoming knowledgeable about creative art therapy, but if you feel a particular desire for this type of treatment, try asking your doctor or hospital for a referral. There are different types of creative art, including drawing, painting, dance or music. However, you don’t necessarily have to see an arts therapist to engage in these activities. Bradt said you can reap just as many benefits from joining a choir, taking a woodshop class or learning how to square dance.
As a 25-year paralegal for Kazan Law, Jackie Douglas supports and guides her clients and their family members through the trial process. Her daily commute takes her past shipyards, factories and refineries much like where her clients used to work.