Art Therapy: Exploring the Science Behind the Mind Body Connection



By Emily Waldorf

In Ron Winslow’s article, In Search of the Science Behind the Healing Powers of Art, in the Wall Street Journal, he examines the inspiring story of heart transplant patient Julia Strecher, who started to write poems and stories to relieve her pain as well as violent nightmares that she was having a heart attack.

Ms. Strecher describes the creative process as “extremely emotionally healing and freeing…it helped me relieve a lot of stress and provided a distraction from pain and depression.” But is art therapy hard science?  Can art therapy only heal patients who have a natural interest and talent in creative disciplines or can it be used across the board both after trauma and to possibly prevent stress related health conditions?

In Brookline, Mass., the Foundation for Art and Healing is setting out to determine whether or not art therapy can be a “valid clinical intervention” in addition to standard Wesertern practices.  Notably, it already has support from Philips Electronics NV and Johnson & Johnson.  It is widely known that heart attacks can be caused by stress and emotional symptoms but there is no clear cut path to managing emotional health, except perhaps engaging in artistic expression.  Joshua Smith, a psychologist at Syracuse University who advises the Foundation for Art and Healing says “by engaging in dance poetry or music, people are likely to initiate processes that help them manage stress, reduce negative mood states and perhaps change behavior that we know impacts cardiovascular risk and recovery.”

Mr. Winslow’s article was promising coverage for a powerful cure.  If you or someone you know is suffering, consider exploring an art therapy program in your community.  Many of them are free or low cost and guaranteed to relieve stress at the very least and perhaps your other health problems.


Foundation for Art and Healing

American Art Therapy Association

Survivors Art Foundation

Art for Healing Foundation

International Art Therapy

17 Responses to “Art Therapy: Exploring the Science Behind the Mind Body Connection”

  1. Please include our website on your list; we are currently working on international art therapy research collaborations. And I am very appreciative that you cited this issue. Neuroscience is supporting the notion that art therapy is helpful in trauma recovery, neurodegenerative illnesses, and stress reduction– but so much more research is needed.

    • Dr. Malchiodi:

      Ten years ago, I started developing new, practical ways to utilize distraction therapy in the hospital.
      I have been searching for help to move these ideas forward clinically; no help has been found thus far.
      I am discouraged. You can read and view the information about these ideas on my duanewyatt blog here at
      Best regards,
      Duane Wyatt

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