Monday, April 06, 2009

Visual arts play a central role in medical arts

Sara Baker guest blogs about "Returning to the Roots of Western Medicine" on the site Creativity in Healthcare. Baker is a a novelist, short story writer, dramatist, and creator of the writing Woven Dialog Workshops, that help healing at Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support in Athens, Georgia.

Baker writes,
"In ancient Greece, the ill would go to healing temples, or temenos, which means a piece of land cut off or set apart and dedicated for sacred purposes. The temples dedicated to healing were call asclepieia, after the god of healing, Asclepius. The sick would come and bathe in healing waters and prepare themselves for a sacred dream, which they would then report to a priest, who would prescribe a cure. The earliest of these temples date from 420 BC, and both Hippocrates and Galen trained in asclepieia, and Hippocrates traced his ancestry to Asclepius."
* * * * * * *
"By providing arts experiences in hospital settings, however, we are providing our own temenos. Here, in the safe space set apart from other concerns, patients are invited to have a healing, although waking, dream. They are able to find the symbolic language to express the crisis they are experiencing, and also, through the process of art, to seek new, imaginative ways to go forward. Thomas Moore, author of Dark Nights of the Soul, talks about the "unfolding self," the part of us that is always evolving and going through deep transformations. "The unfolding self hungers for symbols and language to understand and mark the transitions it is going through." (pg. 35) Through the process of creating art, the patient-artist both creates the distance necessary to reflect on his/her experience and honors the transformative process that is always part of the experience of illness."
She concludes,
"Medicine has always been a blending of art ― intuition, perception, creativity ― and science ― knowledge, skill, experience. While the current structure of our medical system so often mitigates against providing healing environments that address the whole person, my experience has been that all those involved in healthcare want such environments. By incorporating the arts as healing modalities, hospitals are returning to the roots of Western medicine."

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