Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when physical trauma causes damage to the brain, like a blow or jolt to the head. People usually get this from sports, falls or explosives blasts.
The good news is: TBI improves over time. While the brain rewires, methods like art therapy can help speed up this process.
But does art therapy actually work?
Experiencing fatigue, dizziness, memory problems, personality changes or anxiety are just some of the common symptoms in TBI. This is called Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) and can last for three to six months after the injury. Meanwhile, doctors advise their patients to engage in leisure activities before getting back to work.
Art therapy is combined with psychotherapeutic techniques to improve the mental and emotional well-being. Drawing, painting, sculpture and collage can already do so much for an injured brain.
Here are the benefits of art therapy:
1. Good distraction
Working right away after the injury will only open to new PCS symptoms, so it is definitely not advisable for patients. It’d be like forcing to run with a strained muscle. The best thing to do is to get some rest or find a new relaxing distraction: art. This lifts you away from anxious thoughts and place you in a trancelike manner instead.
2. Friendly treatment
Drawing and painting are safe and will ease up the condition as the emotions, cognition and behavior are stimulated. Art therapy is observed to open and strengthen neural pathways, eventually to a normal functioning brain. This is also something to be enjoyed with a group for patients to socialize.
3. A way to communicate with memories
Art has always been a nonverbal communication for both viewer and artist. On a personal aspect, an individual’s mind, hand and eyes are at work when drawing images. The images provide a way to communicate with one’s memories that relate to trauma which eases up memory and fears.
4. Gain a new sense of self
Through art, an individual is able to make sense of one’s thoughts or understanding of the world. This way, TBI patients can always stay connected to themselves or even gain a new sense of self. There are TBI patients who claimed that art has helped them not only with restoring their cognitive functions, but also to being more of themselves again.
5. Manage behavior
During concussion, TBI patients will have personality and behavioral changes as the symptoms can put you in a state of confusion. When art promotes balance, beauty and making sense of things, it can come as a need like therapy. One patient described her experience as something that calms the overactive sympathetic nervous system and elevates the mood.
In Brooks Rehabilitation, art therapy is being used for patients who have brain injury. Brooks believe that art aides in the recovery process by allowing the patients to do something they enjoy. In fact, one young patient, Claire, was very interested in coloring and painting. To help with her walking and coordination, her therapist painted her feet and had her walk throughout the gym.
This therapy allowed Claire and her family to see the progress she made by the footprints she created. She was allowed to express herself daily by choosing the colors for her footprints.
Claire enjoyed the activity so much that she was motivated to continue walking more each day.