Pain and suffering don't discriminate. The youngest among us can be affected. Fortunately, we all have the power to heal. Recently, the beneficial role of art therapy in healing has been supported by a number of studies causing an uptick in organizations offering the therapy free to patients in hospitals.
Local programs, like Tracy's Kids, have been making it possible for many children to have a lifeline to happiness for more than 20 years.
By transcending the tether and trauma with art supplies like paint, markers, construction paper and the like, studies show that patients' moods are lifted which improves healing. It also serves as as a welcome distraction from getting infusions of chemotherapy. Many children draw and paint while receiving their medication. The Washington, D.C.-based group travels to a wide array of local hospitals and treatment centers, including Children’s Center For Cancer And Blood Disorders at Inova Children’s Hospital and Inova Children’s Cancer Program in Falls Church, and offers to color the lives of children suffering from cancer.
Founder Tracy Councill is an art therapist that has been working for years with Pediatric Hematology-Oncology patients and their families.
She explains that as IV medications are infused, the young patients "hone their craft and develop personal styles of artistic expression." This helps them develop confidence and belief in their own healing abilities, according to a recent study.
"It is not unusual for me to walk into the clinic and see children with infusions in their arms, crayons in their hands, and smiles on their faces," said Dr. Aziza T. Shad, chair of Pediatrics at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital.
According to a 2018 study, children who endure long courses of treatment or sudden, life altering diagnoses often experience overwhelmingly scary events. Events too frightening to be remembered and understood are stored as nonverbal memories.
"Smells, sounds, visual images, and bodily sensations can trigger distress if they match the sensory memories of the traumatic event. Visual communication helps our patients identify troubling sensations and memories, put their feelings on paper, and reflect on their experiences in both art and words, gaining distance from scary events," it says.
Tracy’s Kids has served an estimated 13,000 persons annually, including at least 5,000 pediatric patients, as well as their family members.