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Creative Arts therapy

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Modern management of illness is heavily biased towards teamwork. Once the diagnosis is made, especially in chronic diseases, most management is handled by members of the allied health professional team like physical therapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists and the like. There are many kinds of therapists and, in the USA alone, there are five million allied health care providers who work in more than 80 different professions and represent approximately 60 per cent of all health care providers. One of the newest health professions is the Creative Art Therapist.

Creative Arts Therapy is the deliberate use of the arts, in a creative, imaginative and novel way, to assist people to better manage their ailment. This is not somebody with a drum going into a hospital ward or old people’s Day Centre and cheering them up. Creative Art Therapists use evidence-based interventions that have been formalised through the energising and emotional disciplines of art therapy, music therapy, dance/movement therapy, drama therapy, poetry therapy and play therapy, for the benefit of individuals.

It’s the planned and creative use of art, dance movement, drama or music to accomplish individualised clinical goals by a qualified Creative Arts Therapist, many of whom are themselves artists in each discipline but who have qualified through a rigorous training scheme lasting three to four years, ending with a Masters degree and followed by registration with the appropriate professional international body.

Creative Art Therapists (or CATS as they call themselves, a particularly inappropriate acronym in my view), work in a variety of capacities from private practice to multidisciplinary teams within hospitals, rehabilitation centres, hospices, residential care facilities, mental health and social care services. They also work in early intervention, schools and disability services.

They engage with individuals and groups across the lifespan, focusing on a range of needs including physical, communication, psychosocial, cognitive or emotional needs. Treatment outcomes include, for example, improving communication and expression, and increasing physical, emotional, cognitive and/or social functioning.

The first professional association of Creative Arts Therapy was only founded in 1979 in the USA. Because of this that creative arts therapists occasionally sponsor special workshops, exhibitions, career days and other events to share their work with the public and other professionals.

This is Creative Arts Therapies Week. It’s new to T&T but during a week in March each year, is annually recognised in the United States and Canada as an opportunity to promote the intentional use of the arts and creative processes to ameliorate disability and illness, and optimise health and wellness.

Creative Arts Therapies in Trinidad and Tobago include, but are not limited to, Art Therapy, Drama Therapy, Music Therapy and Dance Movement Therapy. These therapies are administered by internationally credentialed professionals both in the public and private sector.

The local organisation ( is having a number of workshops this week. These include topics like, “Dance Stories: An Introduction to Dance/Movement Therapy”, where participants will learn how movement can be an indicator of mental health and overall wellness. “Music Therapy for the Elderly” will explore how Music Therapy can be valuable to the elderly and their families, who live with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and other health concerns.

“Into the Jungle” is a special workshop on Thursday for children and will give them the opportunity to engage in creative group play. There’s a particularly intriguing one on Friday titled, “The Masks We Wear”. This one will help participants explore “the self” through the creative method of mask-making.

Workshops are free to the public and are designed for all levels of learners, students, teachers, parents and health practitioners. They take place at Irie Elephant Ltd (8 Rookery Nook, Maraval, phone 710-8145).

An open studio will be available each night from 6-9 pm, where participants are free to choose materials, instruments etc, and create without a specific theme or directive. Participants are free to work individually or with others. Creative Arts Therapists will also be available for any questions or assistance. Sounds like a good lime.


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