When a child becomes ill or injured, these normal activities and relationships are disrupted, often resulting in increased fear and stress. Art therapists, music therapists and dance/movement therapists engage children in normal day-to-day activities, support their development and enhance their ability to cope with the hospital experience.
Creative Arts Therapies
Jacqueline Macri, MA, MT-BC: The kids come here, and it is a stressful experience. When a kid comes in, their whole world is changed. Creative Arts are designed to alleviate stress, help them with relaxation, help them reconnect with who they are. So, Creative Arts Therapy at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia includes music therapy, art therapy, and dance/movement therapy. There are 18 of us; 18 Creative Arts Therapists. We’re all master’s level clinicians and Creative Arts Therapists develop clinical goals and therapeutic interventions and collaborate with the interdisciplinary team to support the patient’s overall care plan.
So, music therapy uses all sorts of instruments, all sorts of musical interventions, depending on the patient. The patient and I will meet, and we’ll develop some goals together. Usually we think of music as something that needs to be performed and in Music Therapy, I tell them it is not about that at all. Like this is a judgement-free zone and this is the place where we’re trying to use music to serve your needs.
Music Therapy is spread out all around main campus. The NICU specifically you may be wondering how can you do Music Therapy with an infant, especially when they’re very young and they’re sensitive to stimuli. Music Therapists in the NICU are responding to their behavioral cues. The babies coo or their cry, the rate of their breath, and they’re adapting specific live music interventions to support their neurological development.
Art Therapists are mental health professionals trained in both art and therapy. So, in Art Therapy they’re using the creative process and the resulting artwork to help patients, and sometimes siblings, explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. They may be drawing their happy place or, or people that represent that to them. Sometimes they do gratitude gardens. There’s a lot of strength-based work in Art Therapy. Our purpose is for the patients to be able to look at it and help, help them understand themselves better or process something, get an emotion out; anything to do with being in the hospital and serving their needs while they’re here.
Here at CHOP we’re lucky enough to have one Dance/Movement Therapist on our Creative Arts Therapy Team. Dance/Movement Therapy interventions can be individual or group and they’re grounded in counseling and Dance/Movement Therapy theory. They invite children, adolescents, and families to use movement, metaphor, and imagery as an avenue for expression when words are not enough. Dance/Movement Therapy helps to encourage self-expression of feelings related to a patient’s illness or their treatment by incorporating words into movement. They sometimes even choreograph dances, so that may be something that they’re working on for weeks and weeks. It may be something that’s impromptu that happens in the moment, but it’s always involving movement that has personal meaning to the patient. It comes from them so that they can develop their own personal dance vocabulary.
A lot of the time when people think of Creative Arts in general, we think about the finished product. That can be an aspect of Creative Arts Therapy, but it is not the purpose. So, the purpose of these therapies is to use the Arts to meet your personal needs and your goals and that’s always the priority. So, we’re not thinking of it here as a Creative Arts class. This is a therapy that’s facilitated by master’s level clinicians.
For really young kids, expressing themselves through words is something that they’re still kind of learning, that may not be the thing that comes most naturally to them. So, using the Creative Arts is something that’s a little bit more natural for a kid. So, whether we’re using color, we’re using sound, we’re using our bodies, that’s a more immediate expression that allows them to really feel like themselves immediately in that moment.
Related Centers and Programs: Child Life, Education and Creative Arts Therapy