Creating a Bridge Between Mind and Body: Art Therapy and Chronic Conditions
Much of the work CATA does is with children and adolescents who are enduring chronic life limiting conditions in addition to physical and intellectual disabilities. One of the many challenges these children face is finding their identity away from medically diagnosed conditions. Often there is fear of death, dissociation, anger, shame, anxiety and disempowerment that comes with medical procedures and care around their illness.
A myriad of physical and psychological sensations can develop after invasive and traumatic medical interventions in addition to already limiting physical and intellectual abilities. Art making can be the access point to begin unpacking and identifying these sensations and help children and adolescents "get through" the mental and emotional aftermath of a physical illness.
Using visual and mental imagery establishes communication between our cerebral cortex and limbic system, which means we are better able to self regulate and cope with adverse experiences. Allowing a space to get creative, curious, experimental and have autonomy over how they choose to make art (sometimes using unconventional tools, like syringes), can be an alternative way for them to express themselves. So often I see a change in affect as children and adolescents repair emotional conflicts and express their anxieties non verbally through art making.
From fear to courage, self doubt to confidence, inviting creative expression adds quality to their lives and a sense of hope and resilience. Art builds the bridge that enables us to connect mind and body to gain insight and regulate within our window of tolerance.