There are many creative ways to treat the secondary effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). One effective method is through art therapy.
Art therapy for brain injury patients is a great method for improving important mental skills and can even soothe emotional distress.
If you want to learn more about this awesome therapy for TBI patients, keep reading!
Art Therapy for TBI Recovery
Art therapy for brain injury patients is a personalized therapy approach that helps strengthen cognitive function.
While art has helped people find peace and healing for millennia, it was only in the mid-twentieth century that art was accepted as a valid therapeutic approach to treating brain injury.
The great thing about art therapy is that it engages both the right and left hemispheres of the brain. In fact, in a recent MRI study, researchers found that art activates both parietal lobes, the part of the brain that controls your depth perception and reasoning.
This has huge implications for brain injury patients, since one of the main goals in TBI recovery is to stimulate the brain and activate neuroplasticity, the brain’s natural mechanism for healing itself.
The more you stimulate the brain, the more the brain forms neural pathways that repair the damage done to it. This means art can literally heal your brain.
Besides the fact that art therapy activates neuroplasticity, there are many other benefits that it offers for brain injury patients. We’ll look at those in the section below.
Benefits of Art Therapy for Brain Injury Patients
The following are some of the best reasons to try art therapy for brain injury.
1. Sharpen fine motor skills and visual perception
Handling paint on a paintbrush can help you gain more control of your fingers and hands, which can transfer to other skills in your life, such as eating.
Working on fine details while painting also improves your hand-eye coordination. Plus, painting helps you develop stronger perception skills, since you’ll need to learn how to make 2-D objects look three-dimensional.
2. Improve concentration and attention
Art therapy, whether it involves painting, drawing, or taking a pottery class, requires heavy concentration.
You not only need to concentrate on making a flower the right shape, but you also have to keep in mind where it belongs in relation to the rest of the painting.
This will help you improve your ability to focus for longer periods of time and teach you to keep more than one thing in your mind at once.
You might find this hard at first, but the more you practice, the easier it will become.
3. Boost problem-solving skills
Art might look easy, but it actually takes a lot of hard thinking.
Unless you’re a natural artist, your painting is not going to come out perfectly on the first try. This means you must know how to identify problems in your painting or drawing and find creative solutions.
Again, this won’t happen right away. You probably will get frustrated a lot in the beginning. But art therapy gives you a safe place to develop your problem-solving skills and learn how to work with disappointment.
4. Relieve symptoms of depression and build social skills
Art therapy is proven to help combat the chemical imbalances that cause depression.
Since depression is a major problem after brain injury, this is just one more reason why patients should give it a try.
Because it often takes place in groups, art therapy also gives brain injury survivors a chance to rebuild their social skills and form friendships, which is key to making a good recovery.
5. Improve self-management and self-esteem
One of the best reasons to try art therapy after brain injury is it gives you a space where for once, you are in control.
You get to decide what to create, and how to create it. This helps you practice decision making and gives you back some autonomy, which will also boost your self-esteem.
Do you want to paint a landscape with grass and trees and mountains? Go ahead! Do you want to just have fun and mix a bunch of colors together? You can do that too!
There are no wrong answers here; that’s the beauty of art.
6. Increase mental flexibility and perseverance
Painting almost never goes the way you planned. You might run out of the right color, you might have used the wrong brush, or drawn things too big. But if it doesn’t look right, you can’t just give up; you need to figure out what to fix.
Doing this often enough will help you develop more flexibility and creativity in the rest of your life as well. You’ll learn not to get too attached to things, since when you’re painting you always have to be prepared to wipe it out and start over.
In short, art therapy teaches you how to deal with unexpected problems in a healthy way. All of that makes it a worthwhile activity for patients after brain injury.
7. Overcome emotional barriers
Sometimes it’s hard to talk openly about your feelings, especially after a brain injury. That’s where art comes in.
Art therapy is a cathartic experience that lets you access feelings deep within your subconscious. It can help you work through any emotional problems you might have in a constructive, non-threatening way.
That’s why so many psychologists prescribe art therapy to their patients suffering PTSD.
In fact, many patients find it helpful to express themselves through painting. They might use colors to represent their feelings, or draw an image that means a lot to them.
Sometimes just the act of immersing yourself in something else for a while, without having to worry about what others think, is enough to relieve feelings of anxiety and anger.
Finding Hope through Art Therapy for Brain Injury Patients
As you can see, art therapy offers many psychological and cognitive benefits for patients after a traumatic brain injury.
Not only does art activate neuroplasticity, it helps improve your mood, problem-solving skills, attention, and coordination.
Most importantly, art helps patients find a healthy outlet for their emotions, and rebuild their sense of self, something few other therapies can offer after a traumatic brain injury.
We hope this article inspires you to add art therapy to your life and find hope after your injury.