Art Psychotherapy in the Care of Children and Adolescents Living with Chronic Illnesses: A Narrative Review
The focus of this narrative review was to look at how art therapy is used in supporting children and adolescents living with chronic health conditions. A total of twelve art therapy studies were identified through database searches, using PsycINFO, MEDLINE, CINAHL Plus and Scopus. The chronic health conditions in focus for this review were asthma, epilepsy, cancer, type one diabetes and type two diabetes. Art therapy was found to provide an effective communication tool, not limited to words, which can be essential when dealing with children and adolescents who find themselves in stressful and difficult circumstances, as the vocabulary skills may not be enough to enable the person to fully express or process the lived experiences. This can be true in the best of circumstances, but more so when under stress, as this can further inhibit conscious reasoning and expression. The enabling, through art therapy, to process difficult life changes can help the person communicate his/her lived and emotional experiences as well as enable a more normal and sounder psychological development. Three key themes emerged when looking at the literature: (1) Art therapy helps with expressing emotions and anxieties, and allows for communication beyond words; (2) Art therapy helps reduce anxiety, improves overall well-being, improves self-esteem and can help with reduced physical symptoms and/or improved adherence to the care plan; (3) Art therapy can give insight into the child’s or adolescent’s lived experiences from a physical and emotional perspective. Key words: Art therapy, children, adolescents, chronic health condition, asthma, epilepsy, T1D, T2D, cancer.