Growing Recognition for Creative Arts Therapies

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has sponsored a roundtable to explore research on creative arts therapies at the 2018 International Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health, followed by a symposium on “Music, the Brain, and Chronic Pain” to review the state of the art in research on pain, music, and music therapies, and to explore research opportunities in music for pain management. For more information on the roundtable, click here.

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Commentary by Ping Ho, MA, MPH Founder & Director, UCLArts & Healing:

“Low hanging fruit” was how Adam Perlman, MD, MPH described the creative arts therapies back in 2011 after he learned of their effectiveness and their ability to be administered in groups, without a lot of equipment. Both he and Adi Haramati, PhD, representing the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (now the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health), had been dialoguing with a team of creative arts therapists that I had brought to a biennial meeting of the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (now the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health) with the initiative and support of John Weeks and Lucy Gonda.

Subsequently, Adi invited us to submit a proposal for a presentation on creative arts therapies at the 2012 International Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health. Here is a link to that panel presentation: The panel began with a review of current research and goals of ongoing research by moderator, Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH, followed by discipline-specific research focused on treatment of trauma presented by distinguished clinician-scholars from four creative arts therapy disciplines: art therapy (Marcia Rosal, PhD, ATR-BC), dance/movement therapy (Sherry Goodill PhD, BC-DMT), drama therapy (Stephen Snow, PhD, RDT-BCT), and music therapy (Bryan Hunter, PhD, MT-BC).

The creative arts therapies have the potential for broad implementation in health care, educational, recreational, and other settings. They can achieve therapeutic goals in social, emotional, cognitive, and physical domains. They are uniquely capable of enhancing positive emotions and not just reducing negative ones. They possess an accessible and unparalleled power to build social connection, which is key in healing intractable and ubiquitous conditions, such as trauma, social isolation, and intolerance. Time and again, we have observed in the community that, within the space of an hour, a roomful of strangers can become each other’s closest confidantes.

Moreover, the creative arts therapies offer a nonverbal means of communication, which is important when trauma, disability, or cultural factors interfere with verbal expression. Rigorous studies of the arts used in therapeutic contexts consistently show biological evidence of stress reduction. We know from the field of psychoneuroimmunology that stress reduction and social support improves health and resistance to disease. Our projected national disease burden includes emotionally and behaviorally related conditions; therefore, the creative arts therapies will play an increasingly significant role in health care.