Sculpting based art therapy has shown to have positive effects on dementia. Is there any scientific proof of this?
If you have been a regular reader of my blog, you would know by now, that I am a strict believer of art therapy. I believe art therapy can not only help you with your everyday stress, depression, anxiety, anger management, it can also help you understand your inner thought processes and deep-rooted feelings which are difficult to explain verbally. In my previous posts, I have discussed the role of painting in art therapy. In this post, I talk about sculpting based art therapy for dementia patients.
The art of sculpting
Sculpting is to create solid objects which represent something like an idea or a person out of materials like stone, metal, or wood.
When you engage in sculpting based art therapy, it’s fun and entertaining. However, there are certain things that go on at a much deeper level when the front of your brain is engaged in forming the sculpture. Sculpting can not only help you calm your mind, it also helps people make sense of their emotions. Sculpting based art therapy has been observed to make people feel more relaxed, and at ease than before they started to sculpt.
How does sculpting based art therapy help the mind?
Any activity that engages the creative side of your brain like drawing, collage making, painting, sculpting etc. extends the visual creative expression of the person. Art is for everyone. It does not matter whether you are artistically inclined or not. You can never go wrong with art.
Sculpting based art therapy can lead a person to imagine possibilities and a future that is much beyond the present moment in which they feel depressed and in despair. When you sculpt, you are constantly making decisions. You have to decide what kind of tool to use, which type of clay to use, what to make, how to make it, what should be the color etc. ultimately, you interpret what you have made and whether you need to make any changes to it or not.
As per Christianne Strang, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama, Birmingham as well as the former president of the American Art therapy Association, creativity is very important to remain healthy, remaining connected to one’s own self as well as staying connected to the world.”
The process of creating art allows a person to prepare themselves to face new possibilities and eventually survive those possibilities. It has also been observed to activate the reward center of the brain.
Life of dementia patients
The traditional daily life in case of a patient suffering from dementia mainly includes activities of domestic (cooking), motoric (sporting), nature (gardening), cognitive (memory training) and finally of a spiritual nature. Most of the art therapies which are available for patient suffering from dementia in nursing homes are collage making, painting and coloring. In nursing homes, patients are rarely given the chance to do any sculpting work on their own.
Many experts believe that art can help dementia patients express themselves. Creating or engaging in making an art allows the person to engage different parts of the brain. These parts also involve the part which we use for language
Dementia is generally localized to the left side of the brain which also harbors the language center. This is the reason dementia patients experience a progressive loss of linguistic abilities. In such conditions, creativity can help them express themselves like sculpting or painting. It has also been observed that as the brain continues to deteriorate over time, these newfound artistic abilities at first reach a peak level and then it eventually diminishes.
Scientists have functional imaging evidences which shows that when dementia patients lose their linguistic abilities, their visual creativity is allowed to free flow.
Sculpting has also been observed to bring out flashes of joy and purpose in these patients. It is not about the performance or their past, it is all about what they can do.
Off late, the role of visual creativity as well as art has played a huge role in research studies on dementia patients. Just as we know that music can revive memories people think they may have lost, similarly, art can be used to revive part processes and memories which are otherwise hard to access. It is also been observed that regular art therapy prevents dementia.
Study of the effect of sculpting based art therapy on dementia patients:
In a study conducted by the University of Bonne and German Center of Neurodegenerative Disorders, they investigated the role of sculpting based art therapy in case of patients suffering from dementia and the effect of the same on their overall well-being. They designed a questionnaire to investigate the five main aspects of mental well-being and concentration which are
- Corporeal memory
- Concentration as well as mental state
In the study, they observed remarkable improvements in the group which was engaging in the sculptural activity. However, they did not observe any improvements in the control group (the group which was not engaging in any kind of sculptural activity). The results of the study implicated towards the fact that the multidimensional effect of sculpting based art therapy has a positive effect on patients suffering from dementia.
In the study, they checked 13 categories which pertained to the emotional well-being and attention of dementia patients. They observed that the categories pertaining to self-esteem, physicality, corporeal memory and self-reliance showed significant results as a result of sculpting.
Sculpting is an ancient art. Initially it was used as a medium through which participants were able to experience aesthetic and sensory sensations. The sensation can cause activation of the buried emotional and cognitive resources as well as their creative potential.
Artistic as well aesthetic processes influence attention and mental well-being, contributing to happiness and satisfaction. However, more studies are required to understand the results which have been proposed in the study.
Observations from other studies done on sculpting based art therapy
- Clay work has been known to combine the primitive communication modes via clay.
- Working with clay involves body expression by physically working with clay act of noodling the clay depends on the persons thought process at that moment. The molding of clay involves the integration of the persons memories, fantasies as well as emotions belonging to the different levels of his or her consciousness.
- Sculpting based art therapy allows for non verbal representation of self as well as the relationship between one self and others. This technique helps in the process of identity development and self exploration by the client.
What are your thoughts on sculpting based art therapy for patients suffering from Dementia? Do you use art therapy for any of your purposes? If yes, then for what? I conclude this blog post with one statement. Art is invigorating, motivating and life-changing. Embrace art as a part of your life and your life will be much fuller and more satisfactory for you.
If you have nay queries pertaining to this blog post or any other blog post, feel free to reach out to me on any of my social media channels. I will be happy to help you out.
See you in my next blog post