Bringing Art Therapies Into Medicine

Entering this course, I was pretty unsure of what to expect, but looked forward to exploring music psychology and music therapy. These two fields interest me because I am a biology major studying to (eventually) become a doctor, more specifically a Pediatrician. For me, good doctors are open to all kinds and varieties of treatments, as long as they better the health of the patient, so this course offered another avenue to explore in my journey to becoming a good doctor.

As we toured the music therapy lab and talked about the processes of music therapy – and art therapies as a whole – I grew increasingly interested in the ways these techniques can be, and presently are, incorporated into medicine. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that medicine is a difficult field to crack and hard data and numbers are required to even begin a discussion about a new therapy or technique. In addition, a major stigma around the word “therapy” holds the population across the world, with many believing therapies are only for crazy people. Also, to make matters worse, medicine is heavily focused on the use of pills and prescriptions to solve problems like pain management, depression, ADD/ADHD, and other physical or mental health issues.

So, how can we speed the process of getting art therapies – that, so far, clearly work for the good of the patient – into the main pieces of medicine, such as hospitals and clinics and offices? I believe the first step is to continue with the research until the usefulness of the therapy cannot be refuted. Then, we need to work on breaking the stigma around “therapy” and show that it is not only for people facing tough or bad things, but useful for everyone. Third, we need to find simple ways for doctors to incorporate or suggest these therapies into their practice. I think this third hurdle will be the toughest, but also most important. The heavy focus on prescriptions means that referrals to other therapies is not very common (when comparing the number of prescriptions versus number of referrals written), so changing this mindset will be a significant challenge, but is not impossible.

Walking out of the music therapy lab, I wondered how I could bring art therapies into my practice as a future pediatrician. I hope to be a positive influence on my patients in all aspects of their health, and after today, I believe art therapies can largely help me do so.

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