It’s not easy to practice what we preach. As a working mama of 2 supporting other caregivers for a living, it’s hard to find the time/energy/motivation/space/art supplies/etc etc etc to engage in any kind of regular art-making practice like I used to. Today I was inspired to create a response piece after a perinatal art therapy session to help me process the complexities of the case. I grabbed a piece of cardboard left over from a package, cheap paint pens I had previously forgotten about, popped on my headphones and let myself go for 15 minutes. That’s all I needed. This is what emerged.
My clinical training as an art therapist frequently involved creative processing to integrate and explore complex case material, and I’m grateful that this technique remains so intuitive and accessible whenever I need it. Just like my breath, my art practice is always there for me whenever I need fresh energy, a release, or grounding.
#processoverproduct #arttherapylife #momtrepreneur #selfcare #mindfulart #nurturingthenurturer
Post and artwork by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT LPAT PMH-C
In honor of Creative Arts Therapy week, I want to highlight a recent “Art and Object” article about the fascinating intersectional field of “neuroaesthetics,” which is the use of evolving brain imaging technology to measure exactly how engaging in visual art, music, and dance impacts the human body and corresponding behavior, with evidence that only 20 minutes of art exposure daily can positively impacts both. Susan Magsamen, founder, and director of the International Arts + Mind Lab Center for Applied Neuroaesthetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine shares, “Curiosity, surprise, wonder — all attributes found in art for the maker or the beholder — these are really important for human development. Researchers are finding that we as humans are hard-wired for aesthetic experiences. The arts are not just fundamental aspects of our humanity, but also essential to our well-being…the way we grow and learn is through neuroplasticity. The more enriched environments, the more sensorial — not chaotic, but in a way that feels safe and often novel — is how our brains grow dramatically.”
Similarly, in“Atomic Habits,” author James Clear emphasizes, “the human body has about 11 million sensory receptors. Approximately 10 million of those are dedicated to sight.. Given that we are more dependent on vision than any other sense, it should come as no surprise that visual clues are the greatest catalyst of our behavior.” With the help of contributions from neuroaesthetics research, the invaluable and ongoing work of Creative Arts Therapists across both clinical and non-clinical settings, and spikes in mental and physical illness since the pandemic began, other fields are finally recognizing the life-enhancing power of art. Magsamen continues, “...because of noninvasive technology allowing us to get inside heads, we’re understanding more neurobiology at a detailed level. And the only reason that matters is so we can create better solutions using the arts for personalized prescriptions, fine-tuning what to dose and dosages, and understanding how to apply art forms for healing."
Indeed, doctors nation-wide are now “prescribing” art museum visits for some patients and even burnt out hospital employees. For example, the NYC Health and Hospitals Arts in Medicine program via The Whitney Museum of American Art uses professional art therapists and museum educators to facilitate staff and patient wellness programming inspired by art collections featured in their facilities. Magsamen concludes, “We have relegated art to only entertainment or enrichment – not lifeblood or birthright. We want to put art at the center of our lives, not as something that would be nice to have.”
Post by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT LPAT PMHC
Original photo by Marcus Spiske via Unsplash
It was such a pleasure to be featured on the “Fit as a Fiddle” podcast with my colleague Dr. Sneha Gazi discussing how art therapy can be helpful in navigating more “messy” life stages throughout the reproductive spectrum, building creative resilience to manage stress, and learning to make meaning from overwhelming or traumatic experiences. Listen to the podcast or watch the video here!
As Black History Month draws to a close and we enter Women’s History Month, it feels fitting to highlight a major issue that intersects with both communities: Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. PMADs are one of the most common medical complications related to child-bearing, affecting roughly 1 in 5 birthing people, including partners.
In the past six months, ten children tragically lost their lives to the unspeakable actions of mothers who were all suffering from severe and untreated symptoms of PMADs, including Erin Merdy in Brooklyn, Dimone Fleming in the Bronx, Paulesha Green-Pulliam in San Francisco and Lindsay Clancy in a Massachusetts town. And yet, the only one of the most recent tragedies to make national headlines was that of Lindsay Clancy’s, a white labor and delivery nurse in a Boston suburb. In response, perinatal mental health Hajara Kutty writes, “...it is disturbing and hurtful that these same conversations failed to materialize when Black children were at the center of similar tragedies. In the absence of a relevant angle, many media stories involving the racialized mothers morphed into narratives about how they lived in shelters, were on the brink of eviction or facing custody battles. The implication is that these mothers took their children’s lives because of hardship. As those in the field of postpartum mental health, we know this is not the case. All of these women were postpartum and many were exhibiting bizarre behavior before the tragedies (a key symptom of postpartum psychosis).”
The media frequently mislabels symptoms of postpartum psychosis as postpartum depression, further muddying and stigmatizing the public’s already distorted awareness of maternal mental health risks. Postpartum psychosis usually occurs around 1-2 weeks postpartum and impacts roughly 1 of 1,000 postpartum birthing people. It is often associated with previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder and the most common symptoms are severe agitation, delusional or bizarre thinking, hallucinations, insomnia, confusion, & dissociative feelings. Although a fairly rare condition, it is both preventable and treatable with timely and appropriate medical attention. Kutty concludes, “We need to add our voices to steer the conversations to the topic of postpartum mental health whenever the tragedy involves any mom within a year of giving birth. If postpartum mental illnesses don’t discriminate, then neither should we.”
Post by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT LPAT PMH-C
Original Image by Max Larochelle via Unsplash