Saturday, September 10, 2011

Art Materials for Combined Music and Art Therapy: Using Clay

Art Materials for In-Patient Psychiatric Consumers During Combined Art and Music Therapy Activities

#4 Clay

       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.

          In addition to using music for thematic material, for collage or drawing, it may also serve as the stimulus for more kinesthetic manipulation of the art medium and materials. One activity example is to provide fresh clay that needs to first be pounded and worked into a useable shape. Music with drumming and a strong beat can provide the rhythm and impetus to encourage the initial work with the clay. I found some good drumming selections on some Cirque du Soleil recordings and also from traditional African drumming ensembles off of albums by Sweet Honey in the Rock.  It might also be fun to do the drumming yourself, live if it is not necessary for you to be working more closely with the clients to facilitate the activity.  

          Working with clay is a good way to engage strong emotions and frustrations through the body. The music works by encouraging the feelings and energy to be expelled. The music is then gradually changed in style and mood to guide the participants in smoothing the clay and building it up with small pieces. The music also serves to guide the participants to closure. Soft clay with the ability to air dry is recommended, or if a kiln is available, then pieces can be fired and given to the patients at discharge.

  Stay tuned for the rest of the series when I discuss using music with painting!  


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