Art is a natural language for children. It helps them make sense of and express their thoughts and feelings. Art therapists are clinically trained professionals who use a variety of art materials at the bedside or in a group setting to help improve the physical and emotional well-being of patients and families.
Many of our patients struggle with their diagnosis, hospitalization and the many treatments they must endure, and it is often hard to talk about their experiences and feelings. Art therapy can take on many forms and has a benefit for patients who do not want to talk but rather respond to engaging in communicating through a quiet creative outlet. Art therapists can also use the final art image and art making process as way to help bring one’s experiences into a verbal language in a safe, supportive environment.
Though there can be an educational component, the goal of art therapy isn’t to replicate an art class in school; it is a way to help children communicate and express how they are feeling about their treatment and diagnosis. Engaging in the creative process changes the way our patients manage their stress, pain and anxiety. Our art therapists work with patients during all stages of their treatment but frequently meet patients early on to develop a relationship, help patients feel more comfortable in the hospital environment
Our art therapists are clinically trained to use the creative process of self-expression to help kids:
Cope with the challenges of being in a hospital
Explore feelings about their illness
Build their confidence
Connect with others
Feel less stress, anxiety and to distract from pain
Expand their development and emotional growth
Each art project is guided by the patient’s lead, though our art therapist may choose to use certain materials to help young children become familiar with the items that doctors and nurses will be using, such as gauze, foam mouth pieces and syringes. Our art therapists work with patients of all ages including teenage and young adult patients, offering artist-quality materials to create their work.
Meet Our Art Therapist
Willow Troy Messier, ATR-BC, CCLS is a registered, board certified art therapist and certified child life specialist. She currently provides art therapy services to hematology/oncology patients at the bedside, in the outpatient clinics and in the PICU. She is also on the palliative care team and follows many kids referred to that service.
Willow received her Masters in Art Therapy from New York University and previously provided art therapy services at Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai in New York City to pediatric patients and their families. She is active in Chicago with the Illinois Art Therapy Association and supervises art therapy interns from Adler School of Psychology and the School of the Art Institute. In addition to being an art therapist, Willow is also an artist and she has a home studio where she makes large paintings on canvas.
Work With an Art Therapist
We are currently able to offer art therapy services to the hematology/oncology patients in the inpatient and outpatient areas.
Ask any member of your care team for more information on art therapy or contact our art therapist.
Art Therapy Internship
Each year, starting in the Fall, we offer art therapy internship for one to two students currently enrolled in a local, graduate level art therapy program.
Each year, starting in the early summer, we offer an art therapy fellowship for one entry level art therapist who has completed their graduate work from an art therapy graduate program approved by the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) and who has experience providing art therapy services to a pediatric medical art therapy population.