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How Art Works as Therapy for Children Fighting Illnesses

Battling a chronic illness is a challenge in itself, but adding in social expectations and changes to your physical and emotional state during an age where everything is exposed online – this adds a whole new element of pressure. In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness month, this week’s interview discusses the emotional and social impact of receiving a cancer diagnosis as a pre-teen/middle school student.

In this episode of The UpBeat Podcast powered by CoachArt, our co-hosts Greg and Roxanne are joined by Nomi, a CoachArt student who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in 2014. Now 16, Nomi beat cancer thanks to a bone marrow transplant from her sister and was named “2017 San Francisco Girl of the Year” by the Greater Bay Area Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She is the poster child for turning lemons into lemonade, though she admits her journey was not an easy one. Nomi openly talks about the emotional and physical obstacles she faced as a result of her illness; through her toughest moments, art was an important part of that battle.

Listen to Nomi’s interview.

Nomi shares some tips on how to find an artistic and creative outlet and how it can help anyone, especially those impacted by chronic illness. At CoachArt, we’re always very excited about spreading the benefits of artistic endeavors and we wanted to share some other information we’ve found.

The Washington Post shares a wonderful story on “Being Heard,” an “exhibition of empathetic art” on display this month at the Children’s National Medical Center. The article shares some beautiful artwork and the stories behind it, while emphasizing the positive impacts the creators experienced while making their art.

On view through Sept. 27, “Being Heard” explores the role of art in creating a more compassionate, healing environment for children suffering from chronic illness. Each of the paintings reflects the medical journey of a sick child by creating a visual impression of his or her struggle, expressed in poems and discussions with professionals who turned those experiences into artworks.

The Department of Nursing at USC  has a wonderful exploration of art therapy, including its specific uses for patients with chronic conditions. It mentions Art Rx, a symposium bringing together artists and health care professionals to discuss science-based evidence of the effects of creativity.

This article cites various studies reviewed in the American Journal of Public Health, verifying that art therapy has increasing benefits for patients managing chronic illnesses. Some of the linked benefits include stress relief, improved cognitive and motor functions, reduced anxiety, pain and depression, as well as enhanced independence, self-confidence and self-expression.

The Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS (HPAA) is a community of artists, writers, and advocates that composed a vast resource for information on therapeutic arts programs. Featuring a large database of non-profit organizations, including CoachArt, around the globe dedicated to helping their communities through art. HPAA was founded by Renée Phillips, artists’ advocate & mentor, and also Founder, Director & Curator of Manhattan Arts International.

There are many wonderful resources that reinforce the therapeutic power of art. Check out the CoachArt blog, for the detailed benefits of fostering creativity for kids with chronic illnesses, including the physical and emotional effects.

Do you have a favorite art activity or article that has inspired you? Feel free to comment below.

The UpBeat podcast is powered by CoachArt, a nonprofit organization that provides FREE art and athletic activities to families impacted by any childhood chronic illness – such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes, cancer, cerebral palsy and more.

If you have a child that may qualify for CoachArt programs, visit: CoachArt.org.

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