As the Expressive Art Instructor at The Oaks at La Paloma, I spend time encouraging patients to be creative and teaching them to paint. Even if they are not artistically inclined, I believe that creating art is a great way for patients to express themselves. Recently, I had a patient who believed that she could not draw or paint whatsoever, and during her first week in treatment, refused to attend the expressive art group. When I asked her why she wouldn’t come to the group, she explained, “there is not a creative bone in my body!”
When the patient came to class the next week I was delighted! I had a feeling that she was more creative than she let on. I asked her “Well, what would you like to attempt to paint?”
“Maybe a musical instrument. I like guitars…” she replied tentatively.
Within moments, I had printed off a few examples for her to draw some ideas from. She stared at them for a while, picked up a brush, and began to paint. At first, she painted cautiously – watching each of her brushstrokes as if they weren’t to be trusted. But soon she became quite comfortable and realized that she had a “flair”. Other patients gathered around as she compellingly painted a guitar – adding highlights, the strings, and splashes of brilliant colors. The finished piece was inspiring
Following this “aha” art experience, the patient painted at every opportunity. She completed eight pieces in all. She left one for her favorite doctor, and I was lucky enough to receive one of the coveted pieces as a gift.
At the end of her stay at The Oaks at La Paloma I asked the patient about her experience in my art class.
“I discovered art accidentally on my path to healing. I found that it is a beautiful way to guide me through the darkness and into the light.”
I’ve been lucky enough to speak with the patient since then and she tells me that she has continued using art as one of her coping tools.