Palliative care I Dyspnea I Art therapy

Painting therapy

In painting therapy, various methods are used to treat patients suffering from dyspnea. Colors have a physiological effect, can be used to express the patient’s thoughts and feelings, and support the development of spiritual perspectives. The painting process “externalizes” inner images of the soul, so that they are now out where they can be seen and worked with.

Usually, a watercolor technique is used, with plant-pigment paints, or the patient is invited to draw with graphite, charcoal, pastels or wax crayons. The different techniques may emphasize translucence, watery mobility, or compression and consolidation.

Form drawing uses many linear movements to practice the interplay between imaginative momentum and deliberate forming of lines, or the contrasts between formative forces, thinking forces and will forces.

Drawing objects or plants promotes the patient’s ability to perceive the world.

It is always the painting process that is important, with its effects on body, soul and spirit—not the end product. Changes in artistic expression often go hand in hand with inner developments that open up new paths and perspectives (1,2).

Therapeutic approach

  • Watercolors have proven their worth in cases of shortness of breath.
    The brush can be moved horizontally with the breath from left to right (“creating space”). We work with “horizontals” and make the picture flow. In addition to watercolors, pastel chalk is also suitable.
  • Long strokes promote exhalation in cases of restlessness and dyspnea.
    The long strokes enable patients to center themselves and be guided out of their restless anxiety. Their concentrated work on the painting leads them from agitation to calmness.
  • Rhythms can be created during the painting process which have an effect on the rhythm of breathing.
  • Creating motifs which facilitate a releasing gesture expands and leads the soul out of tension.
    Painting pictures of a broad sea, with sky moods and sunrise or sunset, can help release the tense soul and lead it into a sense of vastness, with an immediate effect on the patient’s breathing.

Painting therapy not only affects the soul, it strengthens the life organization. Dyspnea is associated with degenerative metabolic processes. The colors and other aspects of painting therapy often help improve patient vitality.