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Why we need art therapies

April 5, 2017
by H. Steven Moffic
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Once upon a time, many years ago, I worked in psychiatric hospitals and clinics that almost by default included art therapists and music therapists. They reached and helped patients who had difficulty expressing and processing their problems verbally.

When the special therapies were conducted for the whole therapeutic community, say in a group singing program, staff also seemed to enjoy it and were more relaxed. Who knows? Maybe that also helped staff wellness without us even appreciating that.

With the emergence of cost savings under for-profit managed care, such therapies virtually disappeared. The only settings that have continued to use such therapies seem to be the Fountain House clubhouses in this country. Those settings provide social and work opportunities for those with severe mental illness. At the houses, member art shows are common. in Milwaukee, I was once president of the board for Fountain House facilities. They are mainly private funded.

Re-emergence of therapies

But good things tend to re-emerge. And the armed forces have discovered how art and music therapies seem to be able to reach some of the troops with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), especially when other therapies for the vets have failed. These activities have tended to be funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). However, now the NEA is being threatened by the new political regime.

What we need instead is an increase in NEA and other funding for all our mental healthcare systems. Arts therapies can help us to reach patients with schizophrenia, PTSD, TBI and others who need a different way of more comfortably "talking." In the meanwhile, try to find ways to bootleg a bit of such treatment by any creative resource that you can. If you've already done that, drop us an email  and let us know how it’s going.



H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic, M.D. retired from the clinical practice of psychiatry and his tenured...

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