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Art gives new meaning to life

News: May 07, 2018

We often speak about people and to people, more seldom we speak with them, says Elisabeth Punzi, a new associate professor of psychology and cluster coordinator for the Centre for Critical Heritage Studies/Heritage and Wellbeing cluster.

In her dissertation, Punzi studied clients in addiction both of substances and behavioral abuse – such as food, sex, exercise and shopping.
"We ought to be a reflective practitioners and understand that one solution doesn’t fit for everything", Punzi explained during her lecture last Friday.

Art as psychological treatment

From experience, she knows that the use of different artistic expressions in psychologial treatment can have a severe impact on her clients’ wellbeing. Punzi believes that tension fields emerge as a result of us all being unique individuals with different inner experiences, living in social contexts that affect us. Within psychotherapy research, focus is on people's living conditions. Therefore, it is important to give patients opportunities to use artistic and creative expressions in clinical practice, such as painting, writing or playing music.
"When working with people afflicted with addiction and social difficulties, I have often heard them wishing for a 'complete life'. They usually stress two things: religion and creativity. It is incredibly important", said Punzi, a former musician herself.
Punzi said that creativity is far from a must, but clinics should be open to it and offer their support if a patient wants to integrate art and literature into clinical psychology.

Creating without performing

Ateliers at Sahlgrenska University Hospital has opened up to patients twice a week, enabling them to create freely. Not as therapy, but as an artistic activity. A new atelier has also opened at Östra sjukhuset.
"The patients appreciate being able to express themselves, not being judged or having to perform. Instead, there is a sense of meaning and development. There is nothing right or wrong", said Punzi.
The patients wished for more creative activities, so writing groups were set up, with the help of established authors and poets.

Murals at Lillhagen

One older example of how art has been used in psychiatry are the culverts at Lillhagen mental hospital, where the patients adorned the walls with their mural paintings from the 1970’s up until the 1990’s, when the hospital was phased out.
"Lillhagen was a natural place for creative creation. Some things were better back in the days", said Punzi.

A book about the murals at Lillhagen is scheduled to be released in 2019.

Photo credit, Lillhagen murals: Jenny Högström Berntson


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