Medical Art Therapy in Children

The study I would like to research is the affects of medical art therapy in young patients with illnesses. Medical art therapy is the use of art therapy as a treatment for children who want to communicate wishes and perceptions regarding their sickness. Medical art therapy can help patients with illnesses such as kidney disease, severe burns, and mostly cancers. Children become masters of their art making which helps rebuild their sense of hope, self-esteem, independence, and competence while expressing their emotions through their artwork.

My purpose of conducting this research experiment is to determine whether art therapy has a positive affect on sick children. In Tracy Councill’s article Medical art therapy with children, Councill states that the hospital itself can bring about stress to the ill child and their family. The hospital can also provide hope for the family, although for the child, the hospital may just be foreign territory. The child with the illness is suddenly surrounded by the images, smells, and everyday life in the hospital, and can feel extremely uncomfortable being there.

A visit from the art therapist, an adult who brings fun art materials instead of needles or medicine, can provide comfort to a scared child. Whether that first art therapy session leads to an extravagant piece of art or just a simple drawing, it can be extremely meaningful to the sick child and help the child make positive correlations to their hospital experience. Carol H. Delue conducted a study to see if drawing mandalas can reduce stress and induce relaxation in children. To study these effects, Delue measured a group of school age children’s skin temperatures and heart rates after partaking in drawing mandalas for fifteen minutes.

The results showed that the heart rate of the children who had drawn mandalas had significantly reduced by seven beats per minute. This study relates to my research experiment because it shows conclusive results that art therapy has a positive affect on children. My experiment will take it one step further, in proving that art therapy helps children with illnesses, not only physically but also mentally, in that it helps to change a child’s perspective about their illness and themselves.

In order to conduct this case study, I will have a group of four hundred cancer patients. The experimental group will consist of two hundred patients that will go to art therapy alongside their cancer treatments. The control group, will have two hundred sick children who will only receive treatment for their cancers using medications, radiation, etc, and no therapy. This experimental study will allow me to determine if there is an improvement in the physical and emotional state of the experimental group.

I will have one hundred male cancer patients and one hundred female patients in both of the groups in order to avoid gender bias. I will also base my study in a hospital in the Upper East Side and all patients will have the same socioeconomic status so that I can avoid unfair experimentation. Since cancer can take someone’s life at any moment, a longitudinal study would not be ideal in this study. I will administer a series of tests to the children in order to gain insight on their self-esteem, emotion and motivation before the experimental group attends art therapy.

The materials that are needed for this study are an array of art supplies, in order to have variety for the children to pick a medium that they enjoy working with. Unfortunately, over the past 20 years, there has been an increase in the amount of children diagnosed with all forms of cancer, from 11. 5 cases per 100,000 children in 1975 to 14. 8 per 100,000 children in 2004. As it increases, I believe it is time for parents and children to look at new ways to help treat a child, with hope of more survivors.

Doctors, parents, and children should be interested in medical art therapy because it is proven to help the child physically as well as help give their family peace of mind and have a different outlook towards the illness. It can also help change the ill child’s preconceived notion about the illness and help the child cope with their fears in regard to it. In conclusion, my study on whether art therapy has a positive affect on children with illnesses is important to families, art therapists, and most importantly children with illnesses.

Through artwork, ill children can respond to their situation with meaning and purpose. Art therapy in the medical setting challenges children to use their creativity in order to help themselves get better. Medical art therapy is comforting and fun, giving children a sense of hope and a voice in expressing their experiences with sicknesses. I hope that my study will prove the significance of art therapy and more children with illnesses will start going to art therapy alongside treatment, in hopes of getting healthier.

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