Looking through the palette

Are Healing Arts New?

The art's and music's healing power is not a new concept but has existed throughout history, according to Arts as a Healing Force Organization.

In the hunter gatherer societies of the past, such as the Kalahari people, music and dance freed what they called the "boiling energy." Tribe members would dance wildly in trances and release a healing power that was part of that culture's sacred medicine.

These dances were later combined with costumes, storytelling, objects and paintings to create what we know now as drama or performance art.

Other societies also adapted their own forms of healing arts.

When Christians and Buddhists meditated on images or listened to certain sounds, it was believed that the person was put in a sacred state and healed.

In the Navaho culture, sick people were made to sit still on the ground while a medicine man created a sandpainting around them. While he was making the painting, the medicine man told a traditional Navaho healing story. It is believed that the story and the painting's images and color affected the spirits and healed the patient.

Today's Research

The hospitals, societies and organizations that support the arts in the healthcare system, all believe that using the arts is fundamental to the healing process because healing does not just take place on the physical level. It also takes place on a mental, emotional and spiritual level.

But what evidence is there to believe that the arts with its dance therapy, art therapy, healing gardens, story telling and more forms can actually promote health?

Researching the possible link or correlation between the arts and improved health is an area of growth. Scientists and doctors are beginning to discover and experiment with art in the medical sense.

The research that is being done explains that the arts benefit patients physiologically and thus improve health and mood, reduce length of hospital stay and even heal.

Art's Benefits

What does art actually do pysiologically?

The article "The Arts of Healing," which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)(vol. 281, no.19, pp.1779-1781). in May 1999, gives examples of what images and creative environments can do.

A Study of "Appropriate Art"

Roger Ulrich, PhD, director and professor of the Center of Health Systems and Design in the College of Architecture at Texas A & M University, conducted experiments in which he measured the effects of art on medical outcomes.

In his research, he makes the important distinction that not all art can benefit patients. Only "psychologically appropriate art" can benefit patients by improving blood pressure, anxiety, intake of pain medication and length of hospital stay. His study also shows that some art styles aren't right in health care setting because they can have negative effects on patients.

Ulrich worked with Outi Lundén, head of the department of psychology at Uppsala University, Sweden, and John Eltinge, PhD, a professor of biostatistics at Texas A & M University for his study. The team worked with postsurgery patients who had undergone heart procedures. They divided the 160 patients into six groups that were shown different pictures.

(These pictures were mounted at the end of the bed so that when the patients woke up after surgery, they would see the pictures.)


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