Art, music therapy celebrated this week at UC Davis Children’s Hospital

Creative Arts Therapy Week is third week of March


At UC Davis Children’s Hospital, creative arts therapies support pediatric patients during their hospitalization. This week, it is Creative Arts Therapy Week. It is a celebration of self-expression, communication and coping through the arts.

“The art and music therapists are an integral part of the health care team,” said Diana Sundberg, manager of the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department. “They provide an outlet for creative expression while supporting the child and family emotionally through their medical journey. We are so proud to be able to provide these valuable services to the children.”

We asked Sundberg about art therapy, music therapy and how the arts can help support hospitalized children.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is a non-verbal form of therapy that involves the creative process to improve the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of patients and families. You do not need to have artistic training to take part in and benefit from art therapy. The art therapists at UC Davis Children’s Hospital provide individual and group art therapy sessions for children of all ages and developmental levels. These opportunities promote self-expression, communication and coping through art.

What types of art techniques are used in the hospital?

During art therapy sessions, art techniques may include:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Collage
  • Sculpting
  • Textile Art
  • Digital Art
  • Photography
Art therapist woman sits in playroom with a patient at a table with markers.
Art therapist Jennifer Miller sits with a patient in the playroom.

What is music therapy?

Music therapy combines music interventions and techniques to help patients accomplish personal goals with the support of a board-certified music therapist. Patients do not need to know how to play an instrument to benefit from music therapy. The music therapists at UC Davis Children’s Hospital collaborate directly with the patient’s care team to provide appropriate music therapy services throughout the patient’s hospital stay.

What kinds of music techniques are used during music therapy sessions?

We use a variety of music techniques, including:

  • Singing
  • Exploring instruments or learning to play an instrument
  • Playing musical games
  • Relaxing to music
  • Writing a song
  • Moving to music
  • Learning how to DJ
  • Recording music
Woman sits by the bedside of a girl with a bandage on her head playing a ukulele in her hospital bed.
Music therapist Susan Mehall teaches ukulele to one patient.

What are the benefits of art and music therapy?

Art and music therapy can help children in many ways. They can:

  • Increase self-esteem and build confidence
  • Manage and decrease pain
  • Decrease anxiety and stress
  • Process difficult emotions and express feelings
  • Provide an opportunity for socialization and family bonding
  • Improve and increase physical movement
  • Promote developmental milestones

How can people support these programs?

We have a music therapy fund and an art therapy fund. These funds help support our programs and the services that our team provides.

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