Art Therapist Helps Patients Come to Terms with Mental Health Issues

Posted on 05/09/16 12:35:pm


(Oconomowoc, Wis.) Laura Teoli, an art therapist for Rogers Memorial Hospital, knows the power of creating art. Since 2007, she has been helping patients at Rogers face their mental health challenges head on through art therapy activities. This includes starting the art therapy program at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Madison in 2010, where she still works with adults in the partial hospital programs coping with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, dual diagnosis and eating disorders.

“A lot of research is currently being conducted in the healthcare industry on the benefits of art therapy. Personally, I get to witness on a daily basis its amazing impact,” says Teoli. “Through activities such as painting, drawing and sculpting, patients realize they have a voice. Art empowers them to express themselves, and live their lives the way they want to. Through being creative they learn to put it out there—get control back, and come to terms with their challenges.”

Teoli adds that art therapy can have a particularly positive impact on patients with eating disorders. “It teaches these patients how to connect to their bodies in a positive manner and really tap back into their emotions.”

Teoli is also a firm believer in practicing what she preaches. She loves to personally create art and recently received a first place award by the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (iaedp) for her creation of a multimodal sculpture, “Balance Embodied,” that was entered in the 2016 “Imagine Me Beyond What You See™" mannequin body image art competition. This is the second consecutive year she has achieved this honor.

Her piece is created out of packing tape, tissue paper, LED lights, fishing line, glue, construction paper, spray paint, corn stalks and corn husks. The sculpture represents the partnership an eating disorder treatment provider and his or her patient form on the journey to recovery.

According to Teoli, the piece represents holistic care, including spiritual care, which helps patients become whole again. Teoli’s sculpture also symbolizes spirituality by incorporating chakras into the model, representing that sometimes people are in pieces or feel they don’t fit. Her art piece emphasizes connecting back and being a whole person.

“Together we learn to balance, hold and share the energy that we use to heal,” says Teoli. “Recovery becomes a holistic journey which often addresses the shadows of the patient’s past. With our help, they learn to accept the darkness and balance his or her physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of life.”

Teoli’s 2015 winning art submission, “Rising from the Ashes,” was created in partnership with Lacie West, another experiential therapist at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Oconomowoc. West also submitted an art piece of her own in this year’s competition which placed in the top five.

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