Healing Power of Art


Second Lady Pence spotlights art therapy at Ascension’s Dell Children’s Medical Center

After announcing plans for her art therapy initiative, Second Lady Karen Pence visited Ascension’s Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas today to see first-hand how art therapy is making a difference in the lives of some of our littlest Central Texans.

Following a walk-and-talk including a special visit with a six year-old patient engaged in art therapy activities and a tour through the gallery of art created in therapy sessions, Second Lady Pence sat down with Dell Children’s art therapist Elizabeth Hendley, MA, ATR-BC, along with Ascension and Dell Children’s leaders to discuss the healing benefits of art. Dell Children’s is part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the largest Catholic health system in the world.

“The art therapy program at Ascension’s Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas serves an important role in the healing process for our children,” said Mrs. Pence. “I enjoyed the opportunity to observe an art therapy session and speak with an art therapist and physicians about the significance of offering art therapy as a viable option in hospitals.”

More than just arts and crafts

Open the door of a registered art therapist’s supply closet and you’ll likely find watercolors, markers, clay, scrapbooking materials, many types of paper from every color of the rainbow and more.

But that supply closet is much more than a gateway to creating masterpieces. It’s about opening the door of imagination, expression and healing.

“Art-making and calming interactions with the therapist helps children feel more relaxed, more energized and less anxious, leading to emotional and physical healing.” Hendley said.

Dell Children’s is the only pediatric level I trauma center in Central Texas. Its art therapy program, part of Child Life Services at Dell Children’s, began in 2007 shortly after the hospital’s doors first opened.

A growing form of treatment in the U.S., Dell Children’s therapists use art as a form of expression to help patients of all ages understand and cope with trauma, injury and illness.

Art therapy is used primarily for pain management, processing trauma, relieving stress, rehabilitation support, processing new diagnoses, decreasing anxiety before or after a procedure, family bonding, and grief support.

Art therapy services are also provided to patient’s siblings, parents and other family members either during the same session or in separate sessions, depending on each patient’s and family’s needs. Occasionally, art therapy and music therapy are combined, providing the patient a deeper expressive experience.

“So many children have chronic conditions and don’t always understand,” said Deb Brown, RN, BSN, MHA, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President at Dell Children’s. “Art therapy helps bring out internal emotion into the external world, allowing them to express inner feelings.”

Art therapy in the spotlight

A former educator and acclaimed watercolor artist, Second Lady Pence understands the cathartic qualities of the creative process. In October, the Second Lady announced plans for her champion project: Art Therapy, Healing with the HeART. She hopes to elevate the art therapy profession, help people understand art therapy’s healing powers and encourage young people to enter the profession.