Creativity keeps students healthy

Joe Harned
Feature/Entertainment Editor

Junior Eliza Sullivan uses a practice room to study music. Music Teacher Jill Young said, “Music provides a safe outlet for emotional expression.” Photo by Joseph Harned

From Music Friday to the All Write festival, Webster is a creative school district. This creativity has a greater use, healing students and helping the community.

Music, writing and art have been used as healing and expression methods for centuries. In recent years, health professionals have found evidence that creative thinking has a therapeutic effect, promoting wellness and actively fighting a wide range of conditions.
Music therapy began in the 1950s and has steadily grown as a medical practice since. The American Music Therapy Association says music therapy can, “promote wellness, manage stress and alleviate pain.”

In the “British Journal of Psychiatry,” music therapist Anna Maratos described how making music can fight depression, writing that, “[Music Therapy] draws in the players to take the risk of doing things differently with others – to behave differently towards each other and to experience themselves differently.” The struggle of learning an instrument combined with the reward of progress can be a massive step out of depressive loops.

Music teacher Jill Young corroborated this. “Playing an instrument can ‘get you out of your head.’ When negative thoughts swim around in your brain, playing an instrument can help get those feelings out much like a conversation with a close friend; it can make you feel better to get your feelings outside yourself,” she said over email.

Creative writing has also been shown to fight depression and lead to real world problem-solving.

Creative writing teacher Rita Chapman replied to an email regarding this, “I think good creative writing makes a couple of important demands on us in this area. First, when we write creatively, we’re forced to take the perspective of different characters or speakers, which forces us to consider other points of view.”

Building scenarios similar to problems in real life can give writers a more level-headed look at a situation; writing about problems in abstract ways, like poetry, allows for more creativity in finding solutions for them. American poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “There is a happiness in creation that is not without its own pain and struggle, a sensation that feels sometimes… like untying knots in which you have been bound.”

Similar to music, the physical act of writing also has a therapeutic effect. Dr. Gillie Bolton, an author specializing in creative thought, wrote, “The act of moving the pen/pencil over the page can be soothing and creative, enjoyable in itself.”

Chapman has also found this to be true: “I might start writing about a situation that made me furious, but then I write a sentence about my anger that starts to point to sorrow about what caused the issue; suddenly, my attitude shifts from rage to something more nuanced and productive.”

Art has also found a place in modern therapy. Art therapist Girija Kaimal said, “Art therapy can influence a range of human functioning, we find, including self-perception and interpersonal interactions. Even a 45-minute creative activity can change a person’s mental state.”

A person with an aggressive or depressive mental state can vent feelings through art, more so that they may be able to with words.

Art teacher Jocelyn Reiss has seen this kind of expression, remembering when, “a student who lost a dear friend and then her grandmother in a short period of time… was struggling to deal with these losses. She took the idea of the ‘Stages of Grief’ to base a series of paintings on as a way to visualize how she was feeling and confront how she was actively coping with the losses.”

Over email, Reiss said, “When making art a person can lose themselves in the practice of creation… It is a practice of de-centering oneself from the present moment, from your worries and to some extent from your ego.”

Webster school psychologist Celine Leaver agreed. “Creative outlets such as music, art and writing, provide an escape from the incessant chatter happening inside. They can help calm the mind, and if you do this enough, you will begin to see that you have more control over your thoughts than you may think. Having this kind of control over your thoughts will lessen their power over you and in turn, can help with depression and anxiety. ”

Leaver said over email, “I think it would be wonderful to offer music and art therapy in schools. This would of course require certain resources that I am not sure are readily available, but with the current mental health crisis, I am optimistic that schools will begin to allocate resources geared toward improving students’ mental health. In the meantime, I think students should be educated around the benefits of using creative outlets as a way to calm the mind.”


Joe Harned- Feature/Entertainment Editor

This will be Joe Harned’s first year on ECHO Staff. He also made several contributions while taking journalism class his freshman year.

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