«The changes in the children’s behavior after an art therapy session
impress me again and again.»

Prof. Dr. med. Bernhard Frey, University Children’s Hospital Zürich

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NAOMI MIDDELMANN, ART THERAPIST (HES)

Therapeutic journey of a young patient who benefited from art therapy sessions.

  This is the story of a young boy, Thomas (not his real name), who did not have an easy start in life. At the age of 7, Thomas has already experienced many breakdowns and knows about emergency shelters, having been placed there several times.

Hospitalized in a child psychiatry department, his medical journey is already quite long. As he communicates very little, art therapy sessions are recommended by the medical team.

But the idea of one more therapy does not enthuse Thomas and during the first sessions, he does not say a word. It is through the exchange of drawings that the art therapist enters into communication with him and gradually establishes a relationship of trust with Thomas.

After several sessions, the art therapist suggested that he work with cardboard boxes. He then chose to build a car, one that would take him to his native country. The first words are shared and he likes the idea of leaving with his car so much that he leaves his study group at the care center several times to find his car.

 As the sessions progressed, Thomas took more and more possession of the boxes and transformed his car into a camper. He set up a bed, a sink, a toilet and a GPS to help him find his way. The sessions turn into a trip around the world.

 “The journey will be long, and it will take patience” he comments.

 Accompanied by the art therapist, equipped with his map and his cardboard passport, Thomas crosses cities and regions to reach his country, that of his family.

 Creativity and imagination allow the therapist to engage with Thomas on painful subjects without the use of words, but through creative play.

 Thomas then creates rabbit cages, with beds and toys. He is concerned about their well-being and safety. After more than six months of weekly sessions, he agrees to work on body feelings. Through the making of bread and mixing of textures, Thomas opens up to the art therapist and talks about the sensations he likes or dislikes.

 Each piece of work created is an opportunity for the art therapist to engage with the child about his emotions, his needs, his experiences. Art therapy has allowed young Thomas to find the path to recovery.

Barbara Carnielli, IHK Painting and Art Therapist, University Children’s Hospital Zurich

In the therapy sessions, I focus entirely on the child’s needs and situation. It is important for me to focus on the healthy issue of the child and to support its autonomy. In this lesson, the child is allowed to say yes and no and choose for him/herself. Here, the focus is not on language but on the child’s own actions, thus enabling the unspoken to find expression. Artistic activity strengthens resources and enables the child to act on his or her own initiative in everyday hospital life. It fills me with great gratitude and joy when I can observe how the child relaxes more and more, so that the current situation recedes into the background, giving way to a creative cheerfulness.

Barbara Carnielli, IHK Painting and Art Therapist, University Children’s Hospital Zurich

In the therapy sessions, I focus entirely on the child’s needs and situation. It is important for me to focus on the healthy issue of the child and to support its autonomy. In this lesson, the child is allowed to say yes and no and choose for him/herself. Here, the focus is not on language but on the child’s own actions, thus enabling the unspoken to find expression. Artistic activity strengthens resources and enables the child to act on his or her own initiative in everyday hospital life. It fills me with great gratitude and joy when I can observe how the child relaxes more and more, so that the current situation recedes into the background, giving way to a creative cheerfulness.

Excerpt from the report by music therapist Claudia Hablützel, MAS Music Therapy ZHdK, SPZ Social Paediatric Centre, Winterthur Cantonal Hospital

Sabine* 16 years old, is hospitalised due to anorexia. For Sabine, music therapy was an important outlet for both non-verbal and verbal expression. In every lesson she managed to discover something for herself and to dare to try something new. These experiences can be like individual mosaic stones. Several mosaic stones together form a picture. In this picture, her self-esteem, which can become stronger, also plays an important role. Sabine’s curious and open attitude supports her in this confrontation.

*Name changed

Brida Lang, former art and music therapist, Cantonal Hospital of the Grisons, Chur

“Oh happy day”

A big thank you to the ART-THERAPIE Foundation and the team of authors of the lullaby book. Lisa*, a premature baby, has been in intensive care for several weeks. Lisa’s mother comes to see her youngest daughter every morning at 5 o’clock – there are three siblings at home. My idea was that I would put the “song book” next to the isolette with a note for the mother.

“Oh happy day”, today the whole family visited little Lisa thanks to the school holidays. Tears glistened in Ms D’s eyes when she later came into the waiting room where I was playing music with the three children: “We know “Idas Sommervisa”, I am Swedish”. Mummy sang the summer song with her group of children – the sun was shining in the waiting room of the intensive care unit.

The sensitive and fine gift has found its way into the hearts of the patients, relatives and the art therapist at the Cantonal Hospital of the Grisons in no time at all.

*Name changed

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