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Artist in Healthcare Certification

Artists are officially getting into the arts in healthcare business.

cancer patient and art at bedside program

In "Arts in Healthcare: Creativity for the Health of It," I described the "arts in healthcare" as a wide-ranging international movement that covers the waterfront of possibilities for how the arts enhance lives and impact patient care, hospital environments, care for caregivers, and community-building within medical and other settings. Also known by some as "arts in medicine" or "integrative arts medicine," the use of the arts in healthcare has been around for many decades with a recent surge in growth during the last ten years despite a bumpy economy and the rocky ride to healthcare reform.

Over the last two decades, research on how the arts-- visual, music, movement, drama, literature, creative writing, and humor-- enhance health has grown and a research-oriented journal that includes public policy and best practices has emerged, Arts and Health. It is exciting to see research data that shows many promising trends demonstrating that patients' participation in the arts reduce use of pain medication, increase compliance with treatments, and shortened lengths of stay in hospitals. The arts are also being used to create safer hospital environment and to introduce nature into medical settings and art on previously sterile wall space. As a result, both patient and caregiver stress is measurably reduced, quality of care is increased, and costs of treatment go down.

The Global Alliance for the Arts and Health [formerly known as the Society for the Arts in Healthcare] now is focused on another aspect of the field and the profession loosely known as "artists in healthcare." The Alliance has taken significant steps this year toward developing an Artist in Healthcare-Certified (AIH-C) and is pilot-testing a new certification examination for artists in healthcare that will lead to this credential. From the Alliance website, it is described as follows:

"The Artist in Healthcare-Certified is a new certification examination for artists in healthcare that will lead to the credential, Artist in Healthcare-Certified (AIH-C). The purpose of the new certification examination is to determine if the artist has the minimal level of competency to safely and effectively work in the healthcare environment."

In brief, this is not a pilot test for professionals such as creative arts therapists, most of whom already possess some sort of registration, certification and/or license in their field or a related field. The test is for artists, defined as a person who produces work in any of the arts that is primarily subject to aesthetic criteria and who has been prepared in the arts through education and/or professional experience. Current criteria for this phase of the Global Alliance's initiative includes a minimum of a high school diploma or its equivalent (GED) and 500 hours of experience as an artist during the past five years facilitating an art form in a health, education, or community context.

It is unclear how this new certification will fit into the larger array of expressive arts services available at many hospitals across the US and in countries like the UK which have a long tradition of arts in healthcare as well as regulated professions like art psychotherapists. However, artists have established many programs in medical settings including long-term artists in residence, studios for patients, and art installations and performances that bring aesthetic value and complement the continuum of services within integrative medicine [See Mayo Clinic Humanities in Medicine, for example].

If you are interested in this new certification, you can contact the Global Alliance for the Arts and Health at their website and peruse an arts and healthcare bibliography here.

Be well,

Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC, REAT

© 2014 Cathy Malchiodi, PhD

Visit my website at for information about my summer and fall 2014 schedule of keynotes and grand rounds across the US on art therapy, expressive arts therapy and healthcare.

For information on art therapy and healthcare, please see Art Therapy and Health Care, Guilford Press (2013).

For more information on art therapy research [which focuses health-related outcomes], see "Yes, Virginia, There is Some Art Therapy Research" or visit my author's page for a downloadable art therapy and healthcare bibliography [go to lower righthand corner for PDF].

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