What is Arts in Medicine?

Arts in medicine, also referred to as arts in healthcare, is a diverse, multidisciplinary field dedicated to transforming health and the healthcare experience through the arts. The field integrates literary, performing, and visual arts/design into a variety of healthcare and community settings for therapeutic, educational, and expressive purposes.

The international arts in medicine movement represents a rediscovery of the links between body, mind, and spirit and of the unity between the creative and medical arts. It recognizes and advocates the role of the imagination and creativity in developing and maintaining health. Healthcare institutions nationwide are now successfully fusing the arts with traditional healthcare practices. Specific applications may include workshops for health maintenance for healthcare givers or other healthy or non-hospitalized participants, bringing the arts into the hospital environment through exhibitions and/or performances, providing arts activities and workshops for patients, family members and staff, or artists helping patients express their creativity on an individual basis.

Under the broad umbrella of arts and health, several disciplines have emerged. The creative arts therapies were established between the 1930’s and 1960s in the United States; and arts in medicine, also commonly referred to as arts in healthcare, began to emerge as a discipline in the 1980’s. A third discipline, arts in public health, is emerging as well in alignment with the national and global priority to enhance population health through wellness and prevention.

Professionals and services in arts in medicine provide patients, their family members, caregivers, and other health-related populations with opportunities for creative engagement and expression that support health and well-being. The discipline serves as an adjunct to medical care, utilizing evidence-based arts practices to support health, healthcare, and wellness. While the arts can contribute to healing in a holistic sense, professionals in the field do not make claims that art can heal illness or replace medical treatment. Artists in healthcare are not clinicians, and they are not healers. Artists in healthcare are highly skilled and trained professionals who are adept at facilitating arts practices and navigating the healthcare environment. They understand patient safety and work in partnership with health professionals and health systems to compliment healthcare. Similarly, artists in public health partner with public health professionals to enhance the efficacy of health promotion programs.

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