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1st August 2021 Latest News

Stroke Survivors Using Art Therapy to Express Emotions

Artwork in hospitals   Jess Bennet

Art therapy is aiding the rehabilitation of stroke survivors at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH), led by Centre for Creative Health (CCH) Art Therapist Jess Bennett.

After speaking with the RAH’s Head of Stroke Associate Professor Timothy Kleinig and Nurse Unit Managers Lou and Natasha, the team was very enthusiastic about having the art therapy service onboard, which has turned out to be a great fit.

“It was important to base art therapy within a supportive team so that patients could consistently receive the benefits of the service,” Jess said.

“Stroke/Neurology was identified as a potentially fitting area due to the emotional, physical and psychological impacts of experiencing a stroke.”

Jess works with a multidisciplinary team to receive new referrals and works with patients one-on-one at their bedside, something that has been immensely welcomed by patients and hospital staff alike.

“Experiencing a stroke is traumatic for the person and their loved ones. I have found that offering art therapy allows patients to communicate what might feel hard to otherwise,” Jess said.

Stroke survivors can work with many different material options including painting, sculpting and collage. As speech, sight and movement are affected by stroke, Jess focuses on the sensory aspects of the materials and patients are able to communicate what they are experiencing emotionally and physically.

“Communicating through art can alleviate some of the frustration that comes with loss of independence, something that has been successful for stroke patients.”

Jess said she’s already seen promising results consistently working with patients within the stroke unit.

“I work two full days which allows me to spend a decent amount of time with patients to see benefits from art therapy. Time can greatly vary from one or two sessions over a week to more than six sessions over four weeks,” Jess said.

“It’s incredible to see positive progress from my short time within the unit; it’s so rewarding when patients are improving their motor skills from the art therapy to even just better communicating their thoughts and feelings through art.

“It is a privilege to be able to provide art therapy to people recovering from stroke and witness their capacity for creativity and self-reflection. People’s strength in the face of adversity never ceases to amaze me.”