Creative Arts Therapies

Art Therapy

Art therapy is the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma, or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others; cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.

Art therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy. They are knowledgeable about human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art. They use art in treatment, assessment and research, and provide consultations to allied professionals. Art therapists work with people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, groups and communities.

Music Therapy

Music therapy is the prescribed use of music by a qualified person to effect positive changes in the psychological, physical, cognitive, or social functioning of individuals with health or educational problems.

Music therapists assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses; design music sessions for individuals and groups based on client needs using music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance, and learning through music; participate in interdisciplinary treatment planning, ongoing evaluation, and follow up.

Dance/Movement Therapy

Dance/movement therapy is the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual (American Dance Therapy Association 2018). Dance/movement therapy invites children, adolescents, and families to use movement, metaphor and imagery as an avenue for expression when words are not enough. Movement can unite the body and mind to enhance quality of life, self-expression and relaxation. Movement can also help us connect to our vitality, which is essential to the health and quality of life for children with illness.

Dance/movement therapists are trained in psychiatric diagnostic assessment techniques, treatment planning, and intervention design. Therapeutic interventions are grounded in counseling and dance/movement therapy theory, and facilitated by a master’s level clinician. Dance/movement therapy helps to encourage self-expression of feelings related to illness and/or treatment by integrating words, experiences and actions. It provides positive body experiences to support self-esteem and body image by activating and integrating the body and mind through movement. A dance/movement therapist’s coursework and fieldwork prepares them for working with a variety of populations and is used with people of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds in individual, family and group therapy formats.

Art therapy, dance/movement therapy, and music therapy services

Group art and music therapy services are provided on several units in the Main Hospital and The Children's Seashore House. Individual therapy sessions are provided on a referral basis. For more information about these services, please contact Child Life by phone or online.

Goals of art therapy, dance/movement therapy, and music therapy

For hospitalized children and adolescents:

  • Encourage the self-expression of thoughts and feelings related with illness/hospitalization
  • Help children process and work through traumatic experiences associated with hospitalization
  • Facilitate positive self-esteem and positive body image
  • Promote a sense of independence and feelings of control
  • Provide peer interaction and a sense of community within the hospital environment
  • Encourage the development of healthy strategies for coping with hospitalization
  • Promote self-efficacy and self-care behaviors

For children and adolescents living with chronic pain or chronic illness:

  • Encourage the self-expression of thoughts and feelings related with chronic pain/illness
  • Facilitate children/adolescents' understanding of how chronic pain/illness affects their lives
  • Understand how situations may increase pain perception and/or stress
  • Learn effective techniques to promote self-management of chronic pain
  • Learn effective techniques to self-manage stress and anxiety related to chronic illness
  • Facilitate the process of acceptance for children struggling with a chronic condition

For children with newly acquired physical limitations:

  • Facilitate adaptation to physical limitations
  • Promote problem-solving skills
  • Facilitate hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills
  • Encourage non-verbal communication skills

For children recovering from brain injury:

  • Raise awareness and orientation to things such as time, date and place
  • Increase attention-span and decrease frustration level
  • Follow step-by-step directions more easily
  • Organize thoughts to make independent decisions
  • Facilitate the process of representing thoughts symbolically
  • Encourage the process of cause and effect problem solving

Student and volunteer opportunities

To learn about the internship opportunities offered by Child Life, Education and Creative Arts Therapy, please visit our Professional Education Opportunities page. If you are interested in assisting patients and families at CHOP, but are not interested in or able to meet the requirements of the internship program, you may want to consider volunteering.