Art therapy helping patients with pain

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
May 2, 2008 3:26:28 PM PDT
Coming to terms with a chronic or debilitating illness can be difficult. Art is helping some patients deal with their pain. And they're getting guidance from a woman who is familiar with its benefits.

Seven's on Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

We often hear about art therapy. It's particularly effective with psychologically traumatized children and adults. It's an effective but often forgotten tool in healing, particularly when coping with a long term injury and chronic pain.

It can be difficult to hold the brush. It may even be difficult to concentrate or to learn technique.

But what this art class can provide the patients in the rehabilitation unit at Mt. Sinai Medical Center is, among other things, comfort, healing and joy.

"It helps their emotional well being." Teacher Eliette Markhbein said. "They're expressing their emotions and their struggles in their painting."

Teacher Eliette Markhbein, who is an artist, knows a little bit about struggle.

The former journalist now paints professionally. But she first turned to it when she began using art to deal with her own struggles of pain and recovery.

On a bicycle near Central Park a few years ago, she was hit by a car, suffering brain and spinal injuries.

Her long recovery took place at the same unit where she is now the volunteer teaching artist.

"I really felt that my experience with art could really benefit the patient that had similar conditions that I had," Markhbein said.

Her experience has benefited patients like Keke, a quadriplegic who paints with her mouth.

Eliette herself painted a picture with her mouth so she could better understand how to help Keke.

And on the walls to the unit are paintings from many patients. Some are expressing perhaps sadness, love, frustration, simply beauty and life.

Or it certainly has given her a way to express herself.

Twenty eight-year-old Nicole Alamo lost her own audible voice and the use of her limbs after an accident six months ago.

But her art and her expression is hang on her door.

"She was bottled up she tried to be positive and art therapy has helped her a great deal," Nicole's mother Sandra Ramos Alamo said.