Craft therapy for expression, fine motor skills and stress reduction

tour special needs family

Craft therapy nurtures children and adults, offers an opportunity for self expression, develops fine motor skills and reduces stress.

Craft therapy offers a sense of accomplishment gained through mastery of a skill. The self-confidence and creative way of thinking that class participants develop carry over into other fields of endeavor outside the realm of “art,” enabling them - at any age - to engage the world on a more meaningful level.

Research is showing the creative arts are good for our health and relationships. Craft therapy encourages the development of fine motor skills such as drawing, tracing, and cutting. When children are having difficulty with these important skills, they may not want to participate in craft time, or they may be embarrassed to bring their finished product home. Having a finished product can help build a child’s confidence in his or her own abilities.

Pediatric occupational therapy uses crafts to help children fully participate and achieve at school, at home and in the community.

Crafting is a haven to let your imagination run wild as they build sky rockets and fierce creatures, throw a pot or make a beautiful necklace or a mask.

Experiment with a wide range of crafts. When self-expression is the goal, success is guaranteed, and art is an excellent way to express feelings that might be difficult to put into words.

There is no such thing as right or wrong. With crafts, making the item, not the end result, is paramount. At the end of the crafts experience, everyone comes away with their masterpieces.

Over three-quarters of American households contain someone who loves to craft . . . and for good reason. Hobbies like painting, sewing, scrapbooking, woodworking, and photography provide crafters with more than just a way to have fun or make gifts. Even at their most basic, they're potent art forms that can distract the mind, soothe the soul, and de-stress the body.

Craft to Heal describes how creative pursuits can be transformed into healing arts, which, in turn, can transform you. Mind-body research now shows that crafts are good for our mental, physical, and spiritual health, so we no longer need to make excuses for doing what we love. The truth is, crafts aren't just enjoyable, they're downright therapeutic!

Time heals all wounds. But until time kicks in, what do you do while you're waiting? How do you relieve stress and decompress from everyday pressures? How do you ease the pain, distract your mind, soothe your soul? If you're like me-and I suspect you are-you craft.

The creative arts, my crafts, keep my hands, heart, and mind busy, and sometimes I think they're the only things that keep me sane. And I'm not alone. Far from it. In fact, from the time that man began recording time, the creative arts have been used as unique forms of expression, communication, and release.

Just think of the stick figures found on the cave walls of our earliest ancestors, the decorative vases molded by ancient Chinese cultures, or the ornate tombs of the early Egyptians. Now, in the twenty-first century, these arts have been elevated from mere crafts to important components of healing therapies for people with illnesses, both physical and psychological. Patients with cancer, for instance, are encouraged to paint, to visualize their bodies fighting off malignant cells, and to pour their thoughts and emotions into journals.

Likewise, abused children are asked to draw pictures to help therapists gain access to their feelings and fears. Craft therapy is used as part of the therapeutic rehabilitation of the disabled or special needs, the mentally disadvantaged, and those with substance abuse problems, and to engage the elderly.

But the best news is that you don't have to be ill to benefit. "We're now finding that crafts are beneficial for healthy people, too," says Gail McMeekin, MSW, a career coach in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, and the author of the inspiring books The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women and The Power of Positive Choices. "Thanks to their ability to tune you into yourself and your feelings, crafts clearly have physical, psychological, and spiritual powers." Adds Diane Ericson, a California fabric artist, teacher, and pattern designer, "Crafts are a way of valuing yourself and giving to yourself. They allow you to express what's inside."

The Study of Crafting

Crafting is a multibillion-dollar business in America, and over three-quarters of American households have at least one family member who spends an average of 7.5 hours weekly engaged in crafting or hobbies. But despite crafting's popularity, researchers haven't spent much time exploring its benefits. Luckily, there is one landmark study-one that was deemed important enough to be mentioned in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. In the study, which was sponsored by the Home Sewing Association, researchers took thirty women (fifteen experienced sewers and fifteen novice sewers) and measured their blood pressures, heart rates, perspiration rates, and skin temperatures-all gauges of stress-via biofeedback before and after they performed five leisure activities that required similar eye-hand movements.

The pastimes included sewing a simple project, playing a card game, painting at an easel, playing a handheld video game, and reading a newspaper. The results showed that sewing was the most relaxing activity of the five studied; it produced drops in heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration. In contrast, stress measures increased after the women performed the other tasks, especially after playing a card or video game.

According to Robert Reiner, PhD, a New York University psychologist and the study's author, the findings prove what crafters already know: crafts de-stress. "The act of performing a craft is incompatible with worry, anger, obsession, and anxiety," he says. "Crafts make you concentrate and focus on the here and now and distract you from everyday pressures and problems. They're stress-busters in the same way that meditation, deep breathing, visual imagery, and watching fish are."

Harvard University's world-renowned mind/body expert, Herbert Benson, MD, says that repetitive and rhythmic crafts such as knitting may even evoke what he calls the relaxation response-a feeling of bodily and mental calm that's been scientifically proven to enhance health and reduce the risk of heart disease, anxiety, and depression. "You can induce the relaxation response through any type of repetition, whether it's repeating a word, prayer, or action, such as knitting or sewing," he notes. "The act of doing a task over and over again breaks the train of everyday thought, and that's what releases stress."

Unfortunately, many of us push crafting and creativity to the bottom of our "to do" list. Maybe we feel guilty for doing something for ourselves-women, of course, are taught that everyone else's needs should come first-or maybe we feel that even when we're relaxing, we should be doing something productive (that old multitasking thing). But now that research is showing the creative arts are good for our health, we no longer need to view leisure pursuits as self-indulgences. We can recast them in a new light: crafts aren't just enjoyable, they're downright therapeutic.

Additional Art therapy resources

DASh Disability Arts in Shropshire - DASh brings together disabled artists in Shropshire, to share their resources and experiences. ---

American Art Therapy Association - The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) is an organization of professionals dedicated to the belief that the creative process involved in the making of art is healing and life enhancing. AATA's m ---

Americans for the Arts - The arts are much more than just fun "extra" activities for kids. Participation in the arts opens up children's worlds and minds, and offers them the skills they need for a bright future ---

Art Therapy Healing - Beauty is in the the eye of the beholder--and in the mind, body and spirit of the artist. ---

ARTtalk - ARTtalk is a free monthly fine arts visual arts oriented eight-page newsletter available on line and from participating art material retailers in the U.S.. ---

NIAD Art Center - NIAD'S mission is to provide an art program for people with disabilities which promotes creative expression, independence, dignity and community integration. ---

Picturedraw, Pencil portraits Pastel portrait drawing and painting - Pencil portraits and pastel portrait drawing and painting from your photographs, View the galleries of example works by the artist ---

Quad art - Quad art ---

Robin's Best Portraits & Custom Artwork - View an online gallery of portraits and other artwork created from photos in a variety of mediums: Including pencils, pastels, watercolors, and inks. A portrait makes a great gift ---

Southside Art Center - Southside Art Center provides opportunities and supported choices for adults with disabilities. ---

The Studio, a fine arts center for people with disabilities - The Studio is a fine arts program for people with disabilities in Eureka, California. We offer a wide variety of art experiences including painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, paper ---

VSA arts of New Mexico - Breaking Barriers - Identifying Possibilities: Career Opportunities Forum for New Mexican Artists with Disabilities

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