January 28, 2012

Missing E-mail from London Student and New Link

For those of you who enjoy reading about Art Therapy and neuroscience, here is link to a list of publications by Noah Hass-Cohen that might be useful: http://noahhasscohen.com/my-publications.html

Also, I recently received an e-mail from a student in London, but I must have accidentally deleted it. I'm disappointed because I really wanted to respond. Perhaps she will read this post.

As I recall, the question in the e-mail was in preparation for an in-class debate: "Why might a neuroscience model for art therapy be beneficial?" The student mentioned a comparison between a neuroscience and a psychodynamic model of Art Therapy.

In the US, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a reimbursable form of therapy. The status that CBT has with insurers and funding agencies is a result of concrete and measurable goals, goal-focused processes and clear outcomes-based evaluations/results.

Some theoretical models related to Art Therapy include psychodynamic psychotherapy which is similar to psychoanalysis in that the primary focus is to reveal unconscious material. Concrete goals and goal-focused processes are not central tenets of the theoretical framework.

'Art as healing' has become a buzz-phrase within the field of Art Therapy. However, this statement may be viewed as meaningless.

What is art 'healing' exactly? How is it 'healing' this part of a person? Where is measured proof that something has been 'healed' as a direct result of Art Therapy?

Armed with a neuro-scientific perspective, Art Therapists can outline art-making processes in a way that is more meaningful. For instance, saying that art-as-therapy promotes EEG rhythms to increase in alpha frequency, thus decreasing behavioral symptoms of anxiety is more concrete, can be measured, and sessions can be structured around EEG readings.

Likewise, saying that creating emotion-centered images aims to promote brain activity in the limbic system and simultaneously engage the hippocampus, thus encouraging enhanced cognitive performance is concrete, can be evaluated, and clear goals can be established. Cognitive performance pre and post treatment can be measured, for instance. Art directives can be systematically oriented towards positive, emotion-centered image-making, and discussions can be focused on reminiscence.

Art Therapy descriptions phrased around neuroscience themes may become more concrete, goal-oriented, and outcome-based. Whether or not this is "better" is debatable. However, from this perspective, Art Therapy becomes a linear, clear-cut process, that may be more insurable and funding-friendly. I, for one, like that idea.

I hope this helps!

November 25, 2011

I Close My Eyes to See

Dan Rhema is the co-author of a newly published ebook about the intertwining of art and life entitled, I Close My Eyes to See.
The ebook, designed for color tablets, is now available on Apple's ibookstore, Barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com.

I Close My Eyes to See Synopsis

Dan Rhema, an international development worker, arrived at the hospital with his brain on fire. The three strains of dengue fever, he contracted in Mexico, had morphed into the deadly combination of meningoencephalitis—both his brain and his spinal fluid were infected. That evening, as the doctors fought to save his life, Dan left his body and began an unexpected journey to the other side.

One week later, he was released from the hospital, just not as the Dan Rhema who had entered. The near-death experience and the damage to his brain left him with gaping holes in his memory and a loss of his identity.

Dan spent most of the next three years asleep. Otherworldly visual images flowed out of his dreams. During his waking hours, a creative compulsion took over his life. He began to sculpt and paint the visions he encountered in the night.

Dan had two choices: to continue hoping that, one day, he would regain his lost memories and his old life, or to embrace the newfound creativity and follow it wherever it would lead. He chose to begin anew and follow the healing journey of the dreams.

Praise for I Close My Eyes to See

Death's pathway led him to worlds beyond this one, opening up realities quite impossible to describe.

It's almost as if your heart can "taste" what he is saying.

-- P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D., author of Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of The Story, and The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences

Dan's narrative is his art, spanning earth fire to infinite stars, mothers and fathers to searchers and beasts, light awaiting, light beyond.

His art -- his story -- ought to be seen. Heard. Experienced.

-- Mark Shepherd, Santa Monica
Senior lecturer, University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television

... as classic as a cave painting and as hip as the found objects that he assembles into magnificent images.

-- Michael Blowen, former film critic for the Boston Globe

Words seem so inadequate when it comes to describing the emotions that are stirred in viewing these works...

Marybeth Orton, MA, ATR-BC, LPAT Licensed Professional Art Therapist

... a tale for our times as wondrous as it is utterly terrifying.

-- Joe Henry, singer-songwriter and Grammy winning music producer.

... in an attempt to explain — to himself and others — what had happened to him. It turned out art was his language as well as his healer.

-- Jo Anne Triplett, LEO Magazine

... through words and art, Dan’s struggle is felt deeply and is clearly a genuine self-exploration. One does not come across such authentic pieces of art often...

-- Liz Beck, Art Therapy Blog

Day of the Dead and "Art-as-Therapy"

Patricia O'Laughlin MFT, ATR
edited by: Amanda Alders

In the traditions of Day of the Dead, art making intersects with community. People come together to celebrate their deceased loved ones and create art that beautifully represents their lives. This year, I have been asked to volunteer at University of New Mexico's healthcare clinic, where I will be teaching children about self expression through creating Day of the Dead art work.

In the Art Therapy theory,"art as therapy," the process of making art is itself the therapy, and the art is not combined with traditional "talk" therapy. “Art in therapy combines creating art with talk therapy. Healing occurs through the internal expression and physical movements that happen while someone is making art. Educators and Art Therapists such as Dr. Noah Hass-Cohen draw from clinical neuroscience to show how art therapy affects the mind-body connection and in doing so lifts illnesses like depression and anxiety.

“Art as therapy,” is deeply ingrained into Day of the Dead holiday, a long standing Mexican tradition that is celebrated from October thirty-first through November second. It's a day when people remember the lives of those who have passed, and honor them with art, flowers, music, and food.

While art therapy is a fairly recent addition to the therapeutic world, people who celebrate Day of the Dead have been practicing a form of "art as therapy" for decades. They create alters for their loved ones, that in themselves are pieces of art. Within these alters are smaller pieces: statues,boxes, ceramic/wooden food, and pictures.

When creating these art pieces, the "mind-brain connection" may be activated. For some people, the materials and method they choose may cause the art making to become similar to meditation, aiding in relaxation and providing a sense of balance and stability. Others choose materials, colors, and processes that are stimulating and may help give them the passion they might not normally feel, passion that is necessary in combating sadness.

Constructing these alters also allows for the creator to think about their loved ones, life, and death. Within most cultures, the habit is to push these thoughts away, which ultimately causes anxiety and fear. But by having a time each year specificaly to celebrate the dead, people who celebrate Day of the Dead give themselves a major gift…the gift of contemplating the existential crisis of death head on.

August 8, 2011


A few weeks ago, I received an interesting e-mail from a blogger with a direct and personal appreciation for art therapy and the many ways it can (and does) help so many people all over the world. He described himself as working in affiliation with a California-based medical center with an extensive art therapy program and he sent me the following article that I thought you might find interesting:

"HS Corona Regional Medical Center: How we all can benefit from creativity

There are many reasons that art therapy is both widely used and almost universally heralded and that is simply that everyone, no matter their mental, physical, or behavioral health, can be creative in one way or another.

This incredible versatility and accessibility makes art therapy a viable tool for anyone who chooses it as a way to health or well being. Expressing yourself, your thoughts, or feelings through creativity can often be a far less daunting prospect for those that have difficulty putting words to those emotions, particularly children who may not yet even possess the language skills to express what they are experiencing.

Whether painting, molding, drawing, dancing, or coloring, art therapy enables people to face and eventually overcome their difficulties while allowing them to feel very much in control of their feelings and ability to let them out. It also has the benefit of letting people explore themselves in a non threatening manner, often bringing to light issues long buried or unconsciously ignored.

Art therapy is not just for those suffering mental or behavioral health issues. It can also be an incredibly useful tool for those with physical disabilities. The creative process, regardless of the medium used, can help strengthen the physical body through hand-eye coordination and a better sense of body awareness. When used in conjunction with other methods of physical therapy patients are given more tools and more avenues to increase their physical control over their body and body movements. Depending on the individual situation, muscle strength, balance, and coordination can be vastly improved.

Art is an exciting and effective method of therapy for a host of different circumstances which is one of the reasons that it remains so popular and so productive. The creative process can be tailored fit almost any environment or individual regardless of physical or mental struggle.

It is truly a universal therapy as we humans are intrinsically creative even if we are unaware of it. Art therapy simply draws on this fact by not requiring the participant to consciously “become” creative in order to experience its benefits."

July 11, 2010

Question: Art - State vs. Trait

Recently a question was sent to me which relates to neuroscience and art therapy:

"I have been painting for nearly 20 years. In the last 10 years, I have noticed a peculiar phenomenon. A couple of minutes, after I start painting, I have emergent thoughts which come to the surface of my attention every 10-15 minutes. These thoughts are whole concepts and attempt to make some determining statement about what I perceive in the world. All of the thoughts... occur to me as I am painting and I simply write them down as I go along. So my question is: how could we explain this neurologically? I know, a tough one, but I have been looking for answers for years and I'm fascinated by the process. Thanks.

my thoughts: http://www.tomartist.com/pages/my-thoughts.php "

My response to this question was:
"Thanks for the links!! After reading your question and visiting your websites, I would suggest that you read information on brain wave states. Alpha/delta/theta etc."

May 8, 2010

PhD Student Posts Interesting Quote

Recently, a PhD student who is very interested in neuroscience and hopes to include the latest findings in their upcoming dissertation sent out this message to art therapists:

"Apologies if this is "old" info but too nice not to pass along,
'Infant research supports the use of nonverbal intersubjective therapies, such as music therapy, movement or dance therapy, drama therapy, pictorial art therapy, and body psychotherapy because these approaches accept that we are all equipped with a sensitivity for movement and qualities in movement, not only in our bodies but in the bodies of others we touch, see, and hear. Moreover, 'art therapies' have the benefit of accepting the assumption that we are story-making creatures, and that our own autobiography, and its main supporting characters, is the story that affects us most deeply'

Trevarthen, C. (2009). The functions of emotion in infancy. In D. Fosha, D. Siegel, M. F. Solomon (Eds.). The Healing Power of Emotion, (pp. 55-85). New York: W. W. Norton."

March 11, 2010

LinkedIn Discussion Forum

LinkedIn features the Art Therapy Alliance. There, many interesting discussions occur. I moderate an interest group on Art Therapy & Older Adults with Neurodegenerative Disorders. Typcially, I post information related to Neuroscience as well. Here is a description of the interest group:

The Art Therapy Alliance group: Art Therapy & Older Adults with Neurogenerative Disorders will provide a forum for the open exchange of ideas, therapeutic protocols, articles, resources, news, info, etc relating to the older adult population. Anyone interested in or currently working with older adults using art therapy is welcome to join in discussions or post questions. The manager of this group, Amanda Alders is currently pursuing a PhD, specializing in Art Therapy at FSU in Tallahassee, FL and will be adding and responding to discussions every other Friday.

Older adults are considered a “vulnerable” population with specific needs and a wide range of behavioral tendencies. Collaboration among therapists may very well serve to provide a strong footing for providing high quality care to a rapidly growing segment of the world population. For this reason, by participating in group discussions, therapists will be able to share insight into the approaches that they find most effective and person centered. This group will encourage discussions on culturally diverse segments of the elderly population as well as theories associated with neuroplasticity, learning, motivation, and creativity.


neuroplasticity, older adults, person centered, learning, motivation, creativity, elderly, art therapists, vulnerable, open forum, effective, protocols, cultural diversity.