The Four Ws of Art Therapy Answered

In tandem with scientific and medical advancements in the field of dementia and memory care, emphasis on patient care is just as important. Everyone knows that treatment is about what could happen, but care is about what is happening now. 

Something people see every day with dementia sufferers is the balance – balancing hopes and goals for the future with the needs of the now. Something that has been very effective in helping the ‘now’ side of things is art therapy. But why, how, what, and where is art therapy?

Why Art Therapy?

Dementia affects the way the brain communicates with itself, and of course, that is far, far more complex than just the impulses reaching the neurons. What happens in the brain is very different than what the effects are. Art therapy is a way of taking a sideways approach to treatment. Much like music therapy, the idea is to address the issue of communicating non-verbally. 

Many, many studies have been produced around the idea that very little of people’s day-to-day communication has to do with words (roughly 7%, in fact, with tone and body language at 38% and 55%, respectively). And when people talk about the way that the brain communicates with itself, they rarely mean words at all. 

How Does Art Therapy Work?

So it makes sense that dementia care will rely heavily on non-verbal communication. Even though humans like verbal communication, since that is most easily quantified, care is not a question of quantities, but consistencies – and art therapy has shown to be consistently adept at reinforcing personal identity and expression. 

Like many hobbies, art provides a sense of accomplishment and purpose, which reinforce not just identity, but temporality – mindfulness, in other words. Engaging in art therapy can help sufferers access memories of people, pets, or events in a way that talking and remembering don’t. It is a way for patients to live in their memories rather than just accessing them, which strengthens neural pathways.

What is Art Therapy?

It can be almost anything! It is a time of artistic expression that can either be directed or not. Sometimes, a session will be craft-like in nature. Sometimes, it will involve painting, sculptures, or collages – the possibilities are very far-ranging. 

Most art sessions may be self-contained, but there is also a lot of merit in the continuation of an art project from day to day. Ideally, the best art therapy program will be consistent and patient-driven.

Where is Art Therapy?

Many of the best memory care facilities have dedicated spaces where professionals offer art therapy to patients – and they treat it as an established field. For example, there is excellent dementia care St Louis residents can take advantage of that has integrated facilities, which allow for therapeutic activities – like art – to take place.

You will want to look at websites and advertising materials of prospective care homes before visiting the facilities themselves to make sure that art therapy is featured prominently. It is one of the best ways to keep a patient engaged and lively while undergoing memory care.