Creative coping: Pediatric art therapist brings art to the bedside

Zenabou, 17, enjoys an art therapy session during her recovery from spinal surgery to treat scoliosis at the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. (PHOTOS BY KATHLEEN PAICE FROIO)

Siblings of patients, such as these girls working with art therapist Maria Fazzini, can also take part in art therapy. When Fazzini hosts art gatherings in the hospital’s performance center, they are designed for both the patient and his or her family, as a chance to get out of the patient’s room, relieve stress and have fun.

Fazzini hosts various art therapy group events, such as this “Christmas in July” project in the performance center that let children design holiday cards.

A patient named Madeline prepares for her art project.

Fazzini, in mask, helps Hailey work on a photo she took. Hailey enjoys all types of art but especially photography. They are altering the photo using Photoshop software, which, along with the laptop, was donated by the charitable group Griffin’s Guardians.

Alexis works on an art project with Fazzini. Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital also holds exhibitions of art created by patients.

Max Smith, left, is a teaching artist from Redhouse Arts Center in Syracuse. The art therapy program at Upstate partners with Redhouse to have teaching artists visit once a month with a lesson plan that includes a story, a theme with discussion questions and an art project. Fazzini, the artist and a child life specialist will create an event for patients and their families.

The therapy Maria Fazzini provides may involve paints, crayons or other art supplies. She’s the art therapist at the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.

“I really enjoy the little smile that starts to form on a patient’s face, and on the faces of their family members, when I introduce them to art,” she says. “The excitement is clearly visible when a child is able to make their own art, often right in their hospital bed.”

Art therapy is used to distract younger patients, or as a coping mechanism for teenage patients. It can become a form of communication  for those who are not able to verbalize their thoughts. Fazzini logged more than 1,000 patient sessions in her first year at Upstate.

“Art therapy provides so many benefits to our patients and families. It can provide a sense of normalization, an avenue allowing them to share their thoughts and emotions in a safe and nonverbal way. And, it can foster new relationships among family members as they observe and listen to each other in ways they may not have tried before,” Fazzini says.

The art therapy program is funded by the Upstate Foundation.

This article appears in the spring 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazine. Hear an interview where Fazzini describes her work with young patients.

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