Art Materials for In-Patient Psychiatric Consumers During Combined Art and Music Therapy Activities
Art and music therapy have been practiced for many years in the treatment of individuals with psychiatric illness. This series of posts will focus on patients in an in-patient psychiatric hospital, where consumers stay an average of 13 days. The male and female consumers range in age from young adult to senior citizens. The consumers are housed in separate units by gender, severity of illness or forensic status. One unit for more stable patients is co-ed. The patients are seen for therapy both on the unit and sometimes off the unit in an “art room.”
Music and art therapists often work at the same facility, but are likely to work independently when conducting therapy groups. Some art therapy directives may be effectively combined with music to provide a different experience or outcome. This series will explore the materials needed for five combined art and music interventions: drawing, using clay, creating mandalas and collages, and painting.
All of the directives discussed in the following examples can be done on the units, although there is an “art” room that some of the patients can visit for certain groups. Each unit has a dining room area with long rectangular tables. I do not recommend using tablecloths because they disrupt the surface and feel of the table, especially for drawing and painting. For this reason, most of the supplies are water-based and listed as washable to facilitate cleaning up the unit areas.
Freehand drawing and painting can be very useful to illustrate the mood and subject matter of music and songs. Relaxation to music, for example, is a very powerful tool and exercise on its own, but adding an art component is a wonderful way to extend the intervention. In general, admission to a hospital is usually a stressful event. Psychiatric patients experience even more stress from unwanted thoughts and uncontrolled emotions. Many of these patients have also experienced a loss of support from friends and family as a result of their illness. Learning to relax is an important strategy for treatment in and out of the hospital. Music assisted relaxation with a therapist guided dialogue is a powerful tool and common intervention in the psychiatric setting.
Once the therapist has led the group in a relaxation protocol to music, participants can draw an image of their own personal relaxing space or the space in which they existed during the relaxation session. These drawings can be used to further the group discussion and are often insightful into the outside environments of the patients. Knowledge about the outside environments and situations may allow for a discussion of problem solving ideas and exploring options and adaptations for relaxation outside of the hospital.
Many of the materials needed for drawing or painting during the relaxation intervention can be used for other activities. Another good drawing intervention is to illustrate imagery or lyrics from a song. One good example of this is to draw the bridge scene from, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” The addition of a visual representation from each participant of their own bridge and “troubles” may extend and supplement the lyric discussion session. The main materials required for these directives include individual sheets of paper for each participant and enough oil pastels, chalk, markers or paint to go around on the tables for a group of 6-10 psychiatric consumers. The quality of the paper is not an important factor since the final products will probably be used for discussion rather than display. Regular drawing paper or multi-purpose art paper in rectangular sheets of 11 x 14 inches to 18 x 24 inches should be adequate. Construction paper can even be offered if a different colored background is desired by a patient. Aprons or smocks should always be offered to participants since even the washable paint does not always come out of clothing. Oil pastels are recommended over crayons since crayons sometimes have a negative connotation attached to them as being childish or not age-appropriate. Of course, any time paint brushes will be used it is important to know the potential danger inherent in these tools and count the brushes going out and back in to the supplies. Colored pencils are not recommended unless working with stabilized patients in small groups and a very structured group setting because of the potential stabbing danger.
Stay tuned for the rest of the series when I discuss mandalas, using clay, collages and painting!