Meet Dr. Cherryl Dellasega, associate professor at the Penn State University College of Medicine, who shares her insights about the value and power of arts therapy.
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Arts and Healing Mary Lynn Schiavi: Throughout human history, art, music and writing have solved those vital expressions of the human heart and soul. These creative expressions provide a powerful outlook for human emotions ranging from rage, fear, grief and loss to the loftiest feelings of pure joy and bliss. Medical Science is beginning to recognize Arts Therapy as an important tool in treating a range of emotional and physical maladies and assisting in the recovery process. Welcome to Matter and Beyond. I’m your host, Mary Lynn Schiavi. We’re going to hear first from Cherryl Dellasega, an associate professor at the Penn State University College of Medicine, where she is involved in teaching and research. Doctor Dellasega is known internationally for her scholarly work on psychosocial issues related to families and has appeared on the today show as an expert on relational aggression. She’s also the founder of Camp Ophelia and Club Ophelia, two programs for adolescent girls. Dellasega shared her insights with us about the value and the power of Arts Therapy. Cherryl Dellasega: The whole theory behind art is that the art that created product is kind of a metaphor for you but it isn’t you. So, that if I paint a picture that’s full of a lot of angry colors, orange and red and yellow and just splash in the canvas or whatever, that might be expressive of my mood, but it isn’t necessarily me. I teach a course for medical students in arts and healing. It’s an elective course that fourth-year medical students take if they would like. I also am the adviser for the student arts and human group. And I’m a call investigator on a study where we’re looking at using, writing with people who have diabetes as a way of expressing emotions. Mary Lynn Schiavi: Writing is a powerful tool employed in the discipline of arts and healing. Prose, poetry, dramatic writing and journaling have been used for thousands of years. Cherryl Dellasega: I’m interested in arts and healing because I’m an author, I write books, and I know that for myself. Writing is very healing modality, a great way to communicate with a large audience of people. And I’ve seen in my programs that I run for girls. I’ve seen how beneficial it can be to have sort of a way of communicating that isn’t uncomfortable, doesn’t put people on the spot. A sort of one person described that it is kind of the back door into the mind because you’re not asking them to talk about their feelings directly but you’re giving them a medium where they can do that. Mary Lynn Schiavi: Dellasega is the author of Surviving Ophelia, The Girl’s Friendship journal, Mean Girls Grownup, Adult Women who are Still Queen Bees, Middle Bees and Afraid to Bees and Girl Bores, Twelve Strategies that will end Female Bullying. Cherryl Dellasega: I run a writing support group for a while. I also do a lot of work with writing narratives outside of my regular position here in my community volunteer work. I have gone to the prison and had women in there worked with creative writhing. And so, I think in terms of being able to express your story and being able to put down on paper in words something that happened to you is a great way to sort of process the events of your life. Mary Lynn Schiavi: One of the main advantages of writhing is the opportunity it offers to go back to past notes and make fresh contributions with a new prospective. Cherrly Dellasega: You can edit, you can go back, you can change, you can add too, and I find it a very powerful medium. We see more and more books now of people who’ve had a particular condition and they want to tell their story, and they said that it’s very healing for them to get that opportunity. If you’re an impoverish at risk youth, being able to express some very tensed, stressful, negative emotions through a poem is much more beneficial than going out and getting in a fight with someone. So, I think there is a wide application. I find that young people often like to write poetry and