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 Mneme Therapy painting created using hand-over-hand assist.

Featured Article

Art as Therapy

The Creative Connection

"I had no idea that I could paint!," exclaimed a 103-year old patient in one of Sophie Slater's art therapy sessions. Slater is accustomed to this type of reaction, though the satisfaction it brings her never gets old. As one of several highly trained therapeutic arts professionals employed by Sheraton Caregivers, she works little miracles with physically and mentally impaired people every day. 

Sheraton Caregivers is the only care agency in Connecticut with a department dedicated to expressive arts and holistic wellness. “With a lot of home care agencies, it’s about the basics – eating, dressing, hygiene – important things.  But we also look at the human element,” says Slater. Their prescription for the body and soul includes Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Mneme Therapy, mindfulness exercises, and even Pet Therapy. Yes, a guided interaction with a trained dog or cat can alleviate all kinds of issues. And no, Mneme Therapy has nothing to do with social media jokes. 

Mneme Therapy (pronounced ‘nemma’) is type of whole brain remedy also known as Therapeutic Painting. Using a combination of hand-over-hand assisted painting, arm movements, singing, story-telling, and praise, practitioners can help the elderly as well as kids, teens and anyone in between cope with challenges from autism to ADHD to Alzheimer’s and dementia.  

Therapists offer at-home services and provide group, family and individual sessions at locations throughout Fairfield County. Meliza Lopez is the recreational director at Bridges by Epoch in Trumbull, a memory-care facility where Sheraton Caregivers works on a regular basis: 

“MnemeTherapy does not focus on the skill level of the residents. Instead, the method helps the person recreate a work of art using music and conversation to tap into unused pathways in the brain. I have seen for myself the past come to life in these sessions."

For example, in a music therapy session, a therapist may lead off with a tune from the 1940s and see people with advanced dementia break into song.  

Said one client’s daughter of her father’s at-home music therapist, Alison Albino, "Alison speaks the language of angels and sprinkles joy, serenity and encouragement to all in her presence. My dad smiles as he sings along with her.”

What's even better than providing pure happiness and personal connection? Practicing therapeutic arts has measurable mental and physical benefits. Documented testimonies have shown significant improvement in clients in verbal skills, spatial acuity, and comprehension. Other key benefits include:

  • Increased intellectual stimulation
  • Enhanced sense of autonomy 
  • Improved physical and motor skills 
  • Relief from anxiety and depression
  • Opportunities for “life review” - taking pride in one’s accomplishments

Therapists also provide support and relief to caregivers. Says Slater, “that hour we are together offers a deeper level of connection than the client might have with their spouse most of the week.”  

Slater and her teammates Audra Epstein and Reyna Zascirinskis all have Masters Degrees in Art Therapy and Counseling.  Sheraton Caregivers was founded in 2018 by Gillian Isaacs.  

Longtime Westport resident, Joan Scher Richardson, says “Gillian made the perfect match for my Mom who had refused any help for her first 95 years. She loved painting with Sophie and talking with her about her experiences.”

Slater beams, “the sense of pride that comes when someone creates something they didn’t believe they could create is so rewarding."  

For more information please visit: https://www.sheraton.care

  •  Mneme Therapy painting created using hand-over-hand assist.
  • Watercolor mandalas.
  • Gratitude leaf bowls.
  • Autumn-themed watercolor leaves
  • Sophie Slater with Audra D'Agostino.