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Do you use arts and crafts in your OT practice?

Opinion Poll: Occupational Therapy Activity Ideas – Should OTs Use Art as Therapy?

Give us your feedback: Should OTs treating adult populations utilize art as therapy? And if so, what artistic occupational therapy activity ideas do you recommend for the adult population?

Occupational Therapy Activity Ideas – Should OTs Use Art as Therapy?The use of crafts and other forms of art as therapy was commonplace for OTs up until the 1980’s. Since this time, therapeutic arts and crafts have been limited to pediatric patient populations. But, many OTs assert arts and crafts should be utilized for adult therapy, too. This doesn’t mean adults should be reduced to coloring in picture books, but there is evidence to show painting and other “adult” artistic activities can prove beneficial for both muscle and brain stimulation. But first…

The History of Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy began around 100 BC when Asclepiades, a Greek Doctor, used exercise and massage to attend to mentally ill patients. However, it wasn’t until the 18th century when Phillipe Pinel and Johan Christian Reil actually developed the profession of “occupational therapy”. Since this time, treatment protocols have evolved:

1910s – First practitioners in OT profession, called “reconstructive aides”, worked during World War I to rehabilitate disabled soldiers and civilian patients. Arts and crafts were a big part of treatment modalities at this time.

1942-1960 – Often referred to as the “rehabilitation movement,” and occupational therapists were called to organize and run rehabilitation programs for injured veterans and advances were extended to include those with spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy.

1960s -1970s – The entire medical profession moved towards specialization, and occupational therapy followed suit. Services for individuals with developmental disabilities and pediatric disorders expanded greatly during this time. Utilizing arts and crafts therapeutically for the pediatric population was a natural development.

1980s-1990s – Occupational therapy became more involved in education, prevention, screening programs and health maintenance efforts. The use of art as therapy declined dramatically and therapists were only using crafts 20% of the time.

2000s – In May 2002, the American Occupational Therapy Association adopted a revised framework of practice for the profession. The new practice framework, Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process, returned to the roots of participation in “occupation” as the focus of the profession.

*Accessed via Washington State University.

Should OTs Use Art as Therapy?

Any activity like drawing, painting or working with clay helps stimulate muscle movement in the hands, arms, and shoulders. It also benefits patients with cognitive impairments by stimulating the creative parts of the brain. Over time, however, OTs have become disillusioned with the use of arts and crafts in their therapeutic practices. Today, approximately half of OTs use arts and crafts in their practice – most often with pediatric populations.

Attention OTs and OTAs! Give us Your Feedback…

Do you feel that OTs should include crafts and other art as therapy in adult patient treatment? Or, do you think this is an antiquated therapy method? Perhaps you feel this treatment method should be limited to pediatrics?

Give us your opinion:

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(Results update daily.)

Would you recommended art as therapy for adults? Why or why not? If you feel artistic therapies are beneficial treatment, what artistic occupational therapy activity ideas would you recommend for the adult population? Tell us in the comments section below.

There are 3 comments. Add yours.

  1. OT

    I think painting is a great therapeutic tool!

  2. Kristy

    I think using clay, pottery and/or painting can be helpful for adults, if this is something they enjoy. If they don’t like art activities then you can use other tools for OT. It’s up to the patient, their diagnosis, their treatment plan and their hobbies, interests and occupation.

  3. Matthew, OT

    I think art as therapy should only be used in kids – just my opinion and i’m sure not everyone will agree. But really do adults need to be coloring? we’re supposed to help adults with normal ADLs and that’s not a normal activity for adults.

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