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What Are the Healing Arts?

The healing arts are creative practices that promote healing, wellness, coping and personal change. Traditional healing arts include music, art, dance/movement, poetry/writing, and drama therapies. These approaches combine artistic expression with psychological awareness and communication, and are led by therapists experienced in both areas.

In addition to the traditional healing arts, there are many other forms of expression, connection and self-development that can play a key role in health. These can be practiced with the guidance of a teacher or therapist, but can also be incorporated into your life on your own to gain enrichment, self-awareness, and pleasure. For example:

  • Mind-body therapies such as guided imagery, biofeedback and hypnosis can help us learn how to de-stress and control physiological functions such as blood pressure and heart rate. 
  • Laughter and humor are good for our immune system and can shift our perspective and create connections with others. 
  • Meditation and spirituality can bring us into a state of deep relaxation that can help us cope and feel connected with nature or a universal source of being. 
  • Relating to pets can help us feel calmer and foster a feeling of closeness and understanding with another being.
  • Cooking or gardening can stimulate our senses, relax the mind and bring a deep sense of satisfaction. 
  • Engaging in any creative process is healing. It is a way of knowing yourself better on the deepest levels, connecting with others (human or pet), regulating your responses to stress and communicating your inner experience. 
  • Even making small changes in our environment supports us on physical and emotional levels by bringing in natural light, art, color and pleasing sound—each having a profound effect on our nervous system and feelings of well-being.

 All these approaches have been shown to have a positive impact on improving health, coping with illness, supporting caregivers, and enhancing healthcare environments. 

The Healing Arts as Patient-Centered Care

Healing arts therapies are tailored to the individual, using treatments that have the highest likelihood of success for each person. Healing arts practitioners are trained to be part of a multidisciplinary healthcare team and to consider symptoms as part of the larger picture of a patient’s physical and psychological well-being and life situation.

Incorporating the healing arts into health is part of a humanistic perspective—one that acknowledges the role of beliefs, emotions, stress, social connections, environmental factors, creativity and spiritual connection in health and well-being. It takes the broadest view of healing—that health is not just the curing or absence of disease but the fostering of positive opportunities for self-knowledge, growth and resilience.

The Link between the Arts and Health/Healing

The healing arts are being incorporated more and more into healthcare as research demonstrates their positive impact on patient satisfaction with the healthcare experience and on health outcomes for a wide variety of health conditions.  

Studies show that they can help patients with their physical, mental and emotional recovery on many levels, particularly by relieving anxiety and decreasing pain. By reducing stress and loneliness and providing opportunities for self-expression, the healing arts can be a healing tool to improve a hospital environment. At a time when patients may be fearful and uncertain about their health or undergoing medical interventions, the gentle, personal attention given by practitioners of the healing arts can be especially beneficial. 

Patients receiving these therapies often report higher satisfaction with their overall medical care, emphasizing the expansion of treatment options, caring interactions with providers, increased self-care skills, and an enhanced sense of empowerment. Studies also indicate that healing arts and integrative therapies can fill gaps in treatment effectiveness, particularly for patients with complex, chronic health conditions and those seeking health promotion and disease prevention.