I am in Jacksonville, FL and my project is up and running at Mayo Clinic! I am working with the Lyndra P. Daniel Center for Humanities and Medicine in Florida, to conduct an Internal Review Board (IRB) approved research study to determine whether or not there is a correlation between creative expression and pain and stress management. Typically, the center’s programs, educational activities, and research in the medical humanities serve patients, families, employees, and the larger community promoting the compassionate delivery of healthcare. However, for my project we were also hoping to have measurable data to determine whether or not administering art projects to patients in the Pain Rehabilitation Center (PRC) is beneficial.
The patients I work with are part of an intensive 3-week outpatient program in the PRC focused on providing multidisciplinary rehabilitative therapy to patients with chronic pain with the goal of improving quality of life and facilitating a return to regular daily activities. Typically, the patients admitted have tried everything and this program is their last resort. Overall, the program is focused on functional restoration. A cognitive-behavioral model serves as the basis for the treatment and incorporates physical reconditioning, biofeedback, and relaxation training, stress management, chemical health education, activity moderation, and cognitive restructuring to decrease pain catastrophizing and pain anxiety. Throughout the 3-week program, various types of treatment and therapies are presented to help each patient achieve individualized goals in returning to an active and fulfilling life. The art making session is part of the ‘distraction’ session three times a week.
In the first few weeks of June I met with my supervisor Chrys Yates, who is the program coordinator of the Lyndra P. Daniel Center of Humanities in Medicine in Florida. We first discussed possible art projects and logistics. We were also able to have a productive meeting with the director of the PRC, Dr. Christopher Sletten, and Dr. Svetlana Kurklinsky, the research fellow helping me with the study. We discussed the intricacies of our experiment and possible ways to test how visual art making can impact pain capacity and overall stress levels. Dr. Sletten and Dr. Kurklinsky thought it best that we administer a daily standardized survey to each patient before the art project and after the art project to determine a change in stress level. So far it has been a good start!