Healing Arts: A Vital Addition to Patient Care

Laura Mitchell's picture
By Laura Mitchell on March 12, 2019

Most people can recall a time that listening to music or looking at paintings improved their mood, but can art improve physical well-being too?

Yes, it can.

Studies found that music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression and expressive writing had a significantly positive impact on health and healing and actually reduced adverse physiological and psychological outcomes.

Carilion Clinic formally recognized that connection with the launch of the Dr. Robert L.A. Keeley Healing Arts Program in 2013. Carilion is one of more than 2,500 hospitals in the United States that use arts programming to improve the healing environment and support patients’ mental and emotional recovery.

Different from art therapy, a professional discipline that can be included in a patient’s clinical care plan, healing arts are designed for patients to both experience and create art in a personal way, without goals or expectations.

Healing arts programs have been shown to broaden community connections, improve both the patient experience and staff satisfaction, and increase corporate and community support.

Benefits to Patients
Engaging in healing arts programs gives patients an improved sense of well-being and enhances their healing process. Both evaluating and producing art can:

  • Shorten recovery times and hospital stays
  • Reduce the need for pain medications
  • Reduce anxiety and improve mood
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate

Healing Arts at Carilion Clinic
Carilion's Healing Arts program integrates literary, performing and visual arts experiences into the healing process.

For example, local artists work with patients, provide demonstrations and conduct staff workshops.

The program also puts on annual employee and patient arts shows and hosts receptions for the artists.

For those patients who are not as artistically inclined, trained volunteers provide journals and work with patients to create written works of art.

What You Can Do
But you don’t have to work with a professional artist to get the benefits of arts and wellness. Take a look at some ideas below to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Listen and Sing. Listen to music that makes you feel good, no matter the style. Sing along and move with the music. Feeling self-conscious? Start in the shower!
  • Look and Draw. Visit galleries—but also make an effort to notice beauty in routine places. Get an adult coloring book, paint a rock in your garden or get out your sketch book and draw what you see in your own back yard.
  • Watch and Move. Watch movies and videos of people dancing, running and playing sports. Engage in yoga, dance and exercise as much as your body will allow.
  • Read and Write. Read poetry or a biography of someone you admire. Start a journal, write a tall tale, list the things you’re grateful for or express your challenges.

You might just find that adding a little arts to your daily routine will benefit your overall wellness.

To support the healing arts program, visit the Carilion Clinic Foundation