The Drawing Cure

A participant wearing a mobile EEG cap equipped with electrodes that track brain wave activity while painting at the Your Brain on Art conference, Valencia, Spain.PHOTO LUKAS GEHRKE/COURTESY STEPHANIE SCOTT AND LUKAS GEHRKE

Like essential frontline workers, art therapists have been toiling nonstop during the pandemic. Having usually treated patients in psychiatric hospitals and mental health clinics, they shifted to practicing online, making art virtually with clients marooned at home. In August 2020, the American Art Therapy Association released a coronavirus impact report documenting how Covid-19 had disrupted mental health care at a time when it was desperately needed: 92 percent of the art therapists surveyed said their clients experienced anxiety due to isolation and the pandemic threat. Financial pressure and increased family responsibilities, like home schooling and safeguarding the health of loved ones, ranked highest among their patients’ causes of stress. Meanwhile, a new dynamic sprang up overnight, with clinicians and clients suddenly “in” each other’s homes—privy to personal space, accidentally meeting pets or family members—a situation that would normally constitute a flagrant breach of ethical boundaries. For art therapists, conducting sessions online presents additional roadblocks.

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