Like so many family members, you may arrive at Iona skeptical that your loved one will follow our art therapist into the art room. It’s not uncommon for us to hear comments such as, “My husband has never held a paintbrush in his life!” or “Mom isn’t interested in participating in any activity, let alone art.”
Yet, time and again, families are amazed and encouraged by the power of art therapy — how it draws participants in from different backgrounds, professions, and interests, and opens them to new forms of expression. Although it is not a required activity, an overwhelming number of participants not only enjoy their time in the art studio but look forward to it.
One participant drew a circle on a blank piece of paper. I asked her to tell me about it and she said, ‘It’s an apple.’ She reached out in front of her, picked up the imaginary apple, brought it to her mouth and took a bite. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the sweet taste. Then, slyly, she offered me a bite. It was such a beautiful moment of describing and sharing. It also revealed how powerful art can be. At the end of our session, she said, ‘I’m so thankful that you took the time to listen to my story,’ and I looked back at her and said, ‘I’m so thankful that you were willing to share it.'”
– Art therapist Jackie Sargent
Facilitated by an art therapist who is educated in art, counseling, and psychotherapy, participants are encouraged to relax, explore, share, and enjoy art’s creative and social aspects in both group and individual sessions. Additionally, for participants who are struggling to express themselves verbally, art therapy provides them with a nonverbal tool for communication.
Studies reveal that art therapy benefits include:
- Promoting confidence and self-expression
- Relieving anxiety or stress
- Accessing memories and sharing stories
- Enhancing physical and mental well-being
- Developing friendships and camaraderie in group sessions
Art Education with The Phillips Collection
Families tell us that another highlight of our arts programming is our unique partnership with The Phillips Collection. Every other month, participants in our Wellness & Arts Center visit The Phillips for a private tour designed for people with memory loss or cognitive impairment.
Known for its extraordinary collection of Impressionist, modern, and contemporary artworks, the Dupont Circle museum provides an incredible backdrop where participants can weave a narrative about selected artworks, and, in the process, engage their imaginations, share insights, and connect with their feelings.
Back in Iona’s art studio, participants explore themes that emerged in their discussions.
This collaboration culminates in a two-month exhibition at The Phillips each fall, where art by Wellness & Arts Center participants is displayed in a one-of-a-kind show.
Research shows that engaging in art, whether it’s music, dance, or visual art, is highly effective among individuals with memory impairments. Benefits include lower levels of medication use, fewer doctor visits, and lower sense of isolation, as well as better reports of mental health and well-being. In fact, the idea of art and health is the very foundation of the Phillips Collection, says [Brooke] Rosenblatt.”
-Melissa Romero, reporting on The Phillips Collection and Iona partnership in Washingtonian Magazine
To learn more about art therapy and other creative activities offered in the Wellness & Arts Center, contact us.