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Art therapy for pain management.

art therapy for pain management

art therapy for pain management

Art therapy for pain management has the potential to reduce your experience and perception of pain.

Art therapy is known to all. It is impossible to not have experienced art as a kid. All of us have probably made thousands of doodles, drawings, and paintings as a child. The experience of making or creating art was always a fun-filled and joyful experience. As is proven by the current research, art can be a powerful therapeutic tool for adults as well. From elevating stress to understanding deep-rooted emotions, the latest feather in art therapy’s cap is art therapy for pain management. This type of psychotherapy (art therapy) can help modify the physical and emotional responses related to pain.

Art therapy for pain management does not depend on pain medication. It is used as a complementary therapy to reduce the perception of pain experienced by the patient. According to Kelsey A. Skerpan, an art therapist, art therapy for pain can help people manage the anxiety and stress which accompany the pain. This helps with improving the quality of life and assists in the process of recovery.

A guide to art therapy for newbies

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is defined as a pain which has existed for a period of over 3 to 6 months. Chronic pain is a mysterious body experience which has been studied by humans for centuries now. Every year, healthcare loses billions of dollars in rating to help chronic pain sufferers. Chronic pain is a debilitating condition which is very difficult to treat. It can arise either due to the presence of an underlying medical condition or it may be idiopathic.

Living with chronic pain

People who live with chronic pain find it hard to put the pain in words since the experiences are multiple faces and nuanced. However, they are always asked by their caretakers, doctors and family to describe it. Communication off the experience of pain causes a lot of frustration. Such people being to feel that no one understands what they are feeling or going through. Therefore finding alternative healing methods like art therapy for pain management can be a huge help towards the well-being of the spiritual, psychological and emotional states.

Art therapy can help deal with PTSD

Art therapy for pain management has proven to reduce pain :

Now that you know that art therapy helps reduce pain, it is time to know how the mechanism of art therapy for pain management works.

Art therapy enables patients to move their mental focus away from the stimulus which is causing the pain. Sounds like a monk movie where the monk can meditate and not feel any pain…right? I always wondered if meditation really relieves pain in people.
A study published in 2018, February issue of The Arts in Psychotherapy, focused on 200 people who
hospitalized due to a medical issue or surgery. The research found that patients who took part in art therapy for pain management, for 50 minutes on a daily basis showed a huge improvement in moods and reduced levels of anxiety and pain.

When in pain, people tend to lose their sense of control as the pain dictates what they are capable of doing and what they are not. Taking part in simple art therapy or in specific course of art therapy for pain management enables them to reclaim ownership of their life primarily in terms of what art form they decide to work on and how they create something unique. It gives them a sense of accomplishment, that they could do something on their own without help. It makes them feel that they still have control of their life and not everything is spiraling out of control. It is not only a powerful self-expression method, but also a great creative outlet for frustration and anxiety.

Art therapy for pain management allows a person to develop a personalized language to express their pain. This makes this therapy mode compatible with pain management. Their is no criticism in art therapy, no guidelines, rules or requirements and especially no right or  wrong. Art therapy for pain management is only about you expressing your pain and deviating yourself from the positive symptoms for a while.

Art therapy for pain management is not to be confused with a regular art class. A person attends a regular art class because they want to learn to make something on their own, learn the techniques and identify what outcome is expected. However, in art therapy for pain management, the focus is on the process of making art and not on the outcome of the project. Art therapy for pain management is always conducted in the presence of a board-certified art therapist. Your art therapist guides you through the process of creativity and allows you to explore how the pain relates to your creative process.

For example, you might focus on making an artwork that is a representation of what your pain looks like to you on a specific day. You can discuss with your therapist, how the pain might be connected to the different colors shapes, and lines that you’ve created. Processing the artwork can help you further understand the pain condition and discuss openly how the process of making art affects your pain and mood.

Which form of art therapy for pain management works for the patient is important

A person does not need to be an artist to benefit from the process of art therapy. What kind of art one engages in does not matter. All kinds of artistic expressions like woodworking, mixed-media, printmaking as well as doodling can be used in the process of art therapy for pain management

Normally art therapy sessions last from around 30 to 60 minutes. The length of the number of sessions can be changed or modified as  per the need of the patient. The sessions can either be individualistic or they can be done in groups. Group settings allow people to share their experiences with others.

Finding an art therapist:

Art therapy for pain management should be practiced by registered art therapists or board-certified art therapists who have earned a Master’s degree focusing on art therapy which has been approved by the American Art therapy Association.

Art therapy for individuals who cannot find a certified art therapist:

So what can you do if you don’t find an art therapist around you but you suffer from pain. You can try art therapy for pain management at home as well. Sometimes it is difficult to find a therapist or you may be living in a place where a therapist is not available. In such conditions, you can start art therapy on your own. To start art therapy for pain management, you can simply pick up a pen and a paper and begin doodling whatever comes to your mind, whatever your pain feels like to you. Indulge yourself in the drawing process to the extent that you stop feeling the pain.

Do not expect art therapy for pain management to start working in one day. It may take a few days or a few weeks for the process to start taking effect, especially when you are doing it on your own. The aim is to just indulge yourself in the creative process and just think about what you making and why you are making that and stop your mind when thinking about anything else including your pain. The entire purpose of art therapy is to just focus your attention on the work at hand and block every other thing out of your mind.

You can start art therapy at any time of the day, on any day. Indulge yourself in the process of making art till the time you stop feeling the pain.


Rest assured, art therapy for pain management will work for you. Have you ever tried art therapy to manage your pain? It does not have to be chronic pain or chronic disease. You can try art therapy to combat simple pains like back pain, shoulder pain, etc. Just give it a try if you haven’t tried art therapy for pain management before. If you have tried art therapy, share your experiences in the comments section below. If you have any stories pertaining to art therapy that you would like for me to share on my blog, please contact me on any of my social media channels.

Art therapy can also be practiced by watching art and not creating it. If you want to start art therapy by watching, please subscribe to the YouTube channel Shruti’s Art Studio. I upload digital paintings pertaining to nature regularly on that channel. Most of my paintings include mountainscapes, seascapes, floral abstracts, animal portraits etc.

See you in my next article

Frequently asked questions

How can art therapy be used to treat chronic pain?
Living with pain causes a person to feel frustrated, angry and at war with all who don’t understand their problem. Art therapy for pain management helps such people to express their emotions, feelings and resolve the inner conflicts related to pain and feeling misunderstood through the process of creation of art.

Is there such a thing as art therapy?

Yes! Art therapy very much exists and it is used to help people resolve their inner conflicts, boost self esteem, self confidence and make them ready to face the world again.
How does art therapy help with stress and anxiety?
Art therapy has been known to help calm the nervous system. The activities of art therapy have a meditative and calming effect on the person and can help soothe nervousness, irritability and stress which the person might be suffering from.

What is the best way to treat chronic pain?
If a person is suffering from chronic pain and medication is not helping, they should opt for art therapy for pain management. Art therapy can provide such people a personalized language which will not only help express their feelings, emotions, irritability, helplessness, it will also help them focus on something else and distract themselves from the pain.

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