Arts in Healing Program

​​The Arts in Healing program provides regularly scheduled hands-­‐on art experiences for patients and family members in group sessions and individually at the bedside. ​Open to all medical center patients and their families, Arts in Healing staff work with patients to assist with creative expression in a supportive, nonjudgmental and relaxing environment. All necessary equipment, materials and instruction are provided free of charge.

The Arts in Healing program is generously funded by the UWMC Service League, and provides Art Groups and Art Therapy visits at the bedside to over 2,000 patients, family members and caregivers annually. The Arts in Healing program has professional affiliations with the American Art Therapy Association and the Global Alliance for Arts & Health.

What is Art Therapy?

According to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), "Art Therapy is a mental health profession in which clients [or patients], facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to:
  • explore their feelings
  • reconcile emotional conflicts
  • foster self-awareness
  • manage behavior and addictions
  • develop social skills
  • improve reality orientation
  • reduce anxiety
  • increase self-esteem
In other words, Art Therapy is a mental health profession in which patients, guided by an Art Therapist, engage in the creative process, in a variety of settings, to help improve the quality of their lives (visit arttherapy.org for more information).

How Art Therapy Works

Patients and their families and caregivers often face challenging emotions that include fear, stress, anxiety, depression, pain, isolation, loneliness, boredom, body image issues and loss of choice. The Arts in Healing program at UWMC offers antidotes to these experiences in the following ways:
  1. Improved mood and relaxation and decrease in perception of pain. While engaging in creative activities such as making art or viewing inspiring art, our brains release endorphins (natural pain-killing and mood-boosting substances).
  2. Stress reduction and sense of control. In a treatment world where so much of what happens to a patient's body is out of his control, Art Therapy provides choices. Patients choose color, texture and design, all of which lead to a greater sense of perceived control. Health psychology shows us that there is a direct correlation between perceived control and the reduction of stress. An increased sense of control over one's environment–including the ability to make choices–helps to dissipate stress, which in turn strengthens the immune system and leads to better health.
  3. Self-discovery and self-esteem. Through their engagement in art, even reluctant patients can surprise themselves by tapping into their own creativity. These discoveries lead to increased self-esteem, which can help improve perceptions of body image during medical treatment.
  4. Self-expression. Art provides a medium for patients to explore and express concerns about existential questions that can loom large for them, including those about illness, meaning, purpose, identity, and life and death.
  5. Connection and support. Art groups offer the opportunity for patients to support each other, and for caregivers and family members to bond with others in similar circumstances. For patients in isolation, or those without family or visitors, our program offers connection and support directly at the bedside.
  6. Hope. Giving patients and family members something to look forward to–especially if they are in the hospital long-term–can make all the difference in their day-to-day outlook, mood and perception of their hospital experience.
The best part about Art Therapy is that it works regardless of a patient's artistic skill or experience with art. There is no wrong way to make art; everyone can do it. The ability to be creative and make art is inside of all of us, regardless of our level of skill or experience with art. Giving ourselves permission to be creative is vital to health and healing.

To schedule an appointment with Arts in Healing or to learn group times, please contact 206.598.6313.