By Barrie Cassileth, PhD
Creativity is inherently therapeutic, whether we are making something ourselves or enjoying the creativity of others. We have all experienced the joy of viewing or creating artwork, playing or listening to music, and hearing or telling a good joke or funny story. Seeking joy through creativity not only is fun but can also promote healing.
Creative therapies include art, music, dance, and humor. They all engage the senses and involve either producing or experiencing a work of art. In so doing they can decrease stress and anxiety, promote relaxation, and entertain patients with serious illnesses. They can also relieve pain and discomfort by redirecting your attention and provide a healthy way, usually without words, to express fears and feelings about your disease or discomfort. To be clear, these creative modalities are all complementary therapies to be used along with conventional treatment; none can cure disease in and of itself.
These types of therapies are generally inexpensive and produce health benefits without the risk of side effects. You can practice them independently, or they can be facilitated by a professional therapist. Many hospitals offer creative therapies to patients while they are hospitalized and may even send professional therapists to patient rooms. Practitioners frequently start off as artists themselves and then become interested in the medical application of their art.
Common Creative Therapies
Where Can I Get Creative Therapies?
Many hospitals have art, music, and/ or dance therapists on staff and offer those services to hospitalized patients. Professional therapists often come to patient rooms. Other medical centers have recreation areas where music, art, or dance can be informally performed, and humor can be practiced just about anywhere. On an outpatient basis, these creative arts can be pursued on your own, with family or friends, or with the help of a private therapist.
Excerpted with permission from Survivorship: Living Well During and After Cancer (Spry Publishing, 2014; $16.95), by Barrie Cassileth, PhD. © Copyright 2014 Spry Publishing. Available for purchase everywhere books are sold.
In Survivorship: Living Well during and after Cancer (Spry, 2014; $16.95), Barrie Cassileth, PhD, offers a comprehensive overview of evidence-based integrative cancer treatment, providing a welcome resource for patients and their loved ones. Dr. Cassileth provides background on complementary therapies, describing various options and their potential to alleviate symptoms of cancer treatment and including important information about current research related to each topic. Written in a clear, accessible style, the book provides insight throughout to differentiate effective, evidence-based treatments from dangerous “alternative” therapies. The result of Dr. Cassileth’s work is a book that is at once easy to understand and backed by considerable research—a valuable resource for anyone facing a cancer diagnosis.