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The Benefits of Creative Therapy

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By Marisa Geitner

One of our agency’s top priorities is providing a range of therapeutic support options that can meet people’s individual needs. Creative Arts Therapies are an important part of this equation, allowing people to express themselves in a way that benefits them. These benefits are extensive, and can be measured in a person’s physical, mental and emotional health. This month, we’re spotlighting our creative arts therapists, discussing the importance of their work, and to the outcomes they are seeing.

Our agency is unique, in that we employ four different therapists in three creative areas: Art, Music, and Dance Movement. These therapists must possess a Master’s Degree in the field, and also need an LCAT (licensed creative arts therapist) certification from New York State. They are trained to appeal to a person’s individual needs. They aren’t “teachers,” and they don’t offer “classes;” therapy is structured in a way that allows people to tap into their individual strengths and interests as a means to foster growth.

Prior to the pandemic, the Creative Arts Therapy team was largely based at the Pieters Family Life Center, working with HCS individuals and groups in the clinical space. In the summer of 2020, Covid-19 created an opportunity to change the formula, and they began working with the people we support in both their residential and day programs. Therapeutic services have bolstered our HCS programming, creating more opportunities for people to have their self-expression needs met.

Many people we support have benefitted tremendously from this individualized approach. One person we support lives with Alzheimer’s Disease, and has experienced changes throughout the past couple of years. He has worked closely with the dance therapist, who quickly learned he loves a variety of musical styles which elicit a variety of movement responses. He gets a glimmer in his eye as he shows off his dance moves to some of his favorite rock and roll songs.  Even on tough days, dancing changes his entire demeanor. The effects of musical therapy have been studied in people with Alzheimer’s, and it has been shown to reduce agitation and creates opportunities for connection with others.

In recent months, the creative therapy team has worked with other departments to form the HCS Grief Team. This multi-disciplinary team can support programs when there is anticipated grief, after a loss, and other life experiences that can result in grief.  This has proven to be a successful initiative, opening new channels of communication between departments and developing resources to support staff and ensure services are better delivered to people who need it the most.