By Elizabeth Cockey, M.A.T., Art Therapist
Onine Extra for the article "Spirits Expressing - Artful Recovery" the Stroke Connection Spring 2012 issue
After a stroke, the recovery process begins. Sure, it might be easier to stay right where you are and do nothing, but art therapy can help survivors recover and reclaim their lives. Here’s how to do it:
- Don’t doubt yourself. For many survivors, the lost use of an arm or the inability to communicate can have a devastating effect, emotionally, mentally and physically. It can be disorienting for survivors who were active and engaged before the stroke. But survivors can still make art. For artists in wheelchairs, roll up to a table. Even blindness has not prevented any of my artists from participating fully. In fact, creating art usually takes their minds off the immediate problem and gives them the freedom to make choices about something within their control, such as what color to use or what subject to paint.
- Find something you like. Painting, sculpting or even scrapbooking are activities survivors can do at home, either sitting down or in a bed. Keeping a scrapbook or journal can be a therapeutic tool during times when a survivor feels insecure and vulnerable. And it can be put together at home with a few simple materials such as scissors, a glue stick and photographs.
- Keep it simple. It’s not necessary to purchase an easel or elaborate art supplies to create something of value. Local art supply stores sell scrapbooking materials, and odds and ends around the house – photographs, scissors, a glue stick – are plenty to get started. Even the kitchen offers resources for an artist. For example, it’s possible to make sculpting clay from flour, salt and water! Homemade paint can be cooked up on the stove by mixing 2 cups water with 1 cup corn starch and adding food coloring. Mix in 1/4 cup liquid dish soap to prevent mold and refrigerate in an air-tight container.
Unfortunately, art therapy is not yet endorsed or covered by most insurance companies, making it an out-of-pocket expense. But free programs may be offered through local senior centers, healthcare facilities and retirement communities.
To find an art therapist near you, visit the American Art Therapy Association and click on “Art Therapy Locator” in the right-hand column.