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Expressive Arts Therapy and the Arts in Health

Here is a new "white paper" you will want to download.

"Have a Slice of Hope Pie" courtesy of C. Malchiodi, PhD
Source: "Have a Slice of Hope Pie" courtesy of C. Malchiodi, PhD

The National Organization for Arts in Health (NOAH) recently issued a new white paper on the "arts, health and well-being in America." The document opens with a quote whose sentiments are well-known to those of us in the business of providing arts in service of health and well-being:

“Within the arts lies a powerful but largely untapped force for healing. The arts and science are two sides of the same coin, which is our shared humanity. Our ability to live fulfilling healthy lives depends on bringing these two forces together” (Vikek Murthy, MD, MBA, 19th Surgeon General of the United States).

The 50-page document is an important read because it provides a fresh look at the terrain of the arts in health, including artists who work in medical environments, creative arts therapists and the arts in hospitals, among other topics; also included is a vision for how the arts could become an integral part of the health and well-being in the US. In these challenging times for both healthcare services, access to medical treatment and funding for the arts, it is refreshing to at least imagine what could be if the arts were more readily available in hospitals, clinics, and wellness centers.

What is remarkable to me about this document is the inclusion of expressive arts therapy as a part of the continuum of care. For those new to this approach, expressive arts therapy is distinguished as the integrative use of more than one art form in therapeutic practice; in other words, we expressive arts therapists consider how to purposively use and transition from one art form to another in service of the individuals, families or groups we see in practice (Malchiodi, 2005; 2013). Many factors are part and parcel in the application of expressive arts including the individual’s window of tolerance, therapeutic goals and objectives, and preferences for expression and imaginative communications. To read more about expressive arts therapy, see this past posts "Expressive Arts Therapy and Self-Regulation" and "Expressive Arts Therapy and Windows of Tolerance."

This inclusion of expressive arts therapy as one of the important approaches in the psychosocial and physical care of patients is an important milestone in the increasing recognition of integrative approaches to reparation and recovery. In my experience, most individuals benefit from a “multi-modal” or integrative approach in therapy versus a single creative arts therapy approach; healing itself is a multi-sensory experience for those who are not only challenged by physical illness but also the emotional trauma that often accompanies physical distress or disability.

To download your free open access copy of the NOAH white paper, go to Arts, Health, and Well-Being in America.


Malchiodi, C. A. (2005). Expressive therapies. New York: Guilford Publications.

Malchiodi, C. A. (2013). Art therapy and health care. New York: Guilford Publications

National Organization for Arts in Health. (2017). Arts, health and well-being in America. San Diego, CA: Author.

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