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Art therapy to help children recover from illnesses

SINGAPORE — They may not always know how to convey what they feel through words, so art can be a medium to help young patients in recovering from injuries and illnesses.

SINGAPORE — They may not always know how to convey what they feel through words, so art can be a medium to help young patients in recovering from injuries and illnesses.

An art therapy programme started by KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) for paediatric inpatients aims to strengthen their resilience and support their emotional recovery by getting them to draw or make crafts.

Using a range of materials and themes, art therapists guide the children to think about their strengths, coping resources and self-help skills. The therapy starts with helping children understand how art can be a form of expression and a way of understanding themselves.

Ms Pearlyn Lee, an art therapist at the hospital’s Rehabilitation Department, explained: “For example, a child is asked to create a superhero mask for himself, while exploring with the therapist what sort of strengths and weaknesses this superhero may possess, and how being this superhero will help him with his difficulties.”

The programme, which began in August, is offered to children who have experienced traumatic situations, such as accidental or non-accidental injuries, medical procedures such as major surgeries, and those with mental wellness concerns such as depression, anxiety and psychosis.

Attending physicians will assess whether art therapy will be helpful when they come across these patients. The programme will be free for subsidised patients.

Established and managed by the Rehabilitation Department at KKH, the Art Therapy Programme is a collaborative effort with international art therapy foundation The Red Pencil Humanitarian Mission, Singapore which, together with its supporter KOP Properties, has pledged to support the programme for two years.

They hope to assist around 300 to 320 patients a year and are also thinking of extending the programme to include children suffering from long-term and chronic medical conditions.

Ms Lee said indicators in tracking the progress of the children vary “depending on the goals that have been set” based on the reason for their referral to the programme. For instance, a child who is depressed due to his medical condition may be observed through his increased ability to relate to his therapist through the use of more positive statements and improved problem-solving skills.

Through art, Ms Lee feels that therapists are able to connect with young patients at a “deeper level”, facilitating closer communication and thus improving the process of healing.

Art is also “a mode of communication” which is “less confronting” for young patients, who find it difficult to convey the depth of their emotions through words, she added.

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