Using the arts to promote healing and well-being, even in a hospital setting
When it comes to helping patients who are "stuck" in their recovery, the arts can often provide the breakthrough science and technology can't.
That was the message delivered by Dr. Sheela Chokshi, an internist and integrative medicine specialist during a presentation by the newly-formed collaborative of Arts for Health Sarasota-Manatee and Arts for Health Tampa Bay.
"What doorway can we open that's a different entryway then the I.V. line?" said Chokshi, speaking to an audience of artists and healthcare providers at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. "The modalities we've found to work are breath, movement and sound."
Music, dance, massage, deep breathing, yoga and even simple humming have become a regular part of the care she provides her patients at Tampa General Hospital, Chokshi said.
She began by discussing a case several years ago that was the catalyst for her own personal transformation from taking a strictly scientific approach to embracing a more holistic integration of mind and body.
Having run out of medical options with a fibromyalgia patient who had suffered unrelenting pain ever since a large decorative piece fell on her, Chokshi felt "my artist heart kick in." She recommended the patient meditate and visually reverse the process that led to the injury that precipitated her pain.
"I literally wrote down that prescription," Chokshi said. "As a friend later told me, 'The issue's in the tissue.'"
Three months later, the woman returned, without the walking cane she'd previously needed and virtually free of pain.
"In that moment I realized, 'Ah, there is a missing piece in my care,'" Chokshi said. "You need to give the patient control and let them empower their own healing. I started connecting with my patients in a much deeper and more satisfying way."
Since that time, Chokshi said she has used three modalities — music, movement and breathing — to help patients manage everything from pain or anxiety to mental health issues and deep trauma.
Such methods can "re-set the nervous system" and help the patient identify the moment or issue that is hampering them from recovery. Chokshi said she, and other holistic health practitioners, have successfully employed the practices at Tampa General on patients from the ICU to the psychiatric unit.
"So many physicians are so limited," she said. "We don't think about what is causing the pain and what we can do to break it."
One issue that remains is the funding of such integrative care, which often is not covered or billable by physicians under a patient's health insurance. Chokshi suggested patients were the key to changing that.
"It needs to become a consumer-driven market," she said.
The event served as the formal announcement of a name change for the local group formerly known as the Coalition for Arts and Health, which has operated for the past three and a half years under the umbrella of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County to promote use of the arts to enhance health and well-being.
Having recently joined forces with the newly-formed Tampa Bay organization, administration has now shifted to the Arts Council of Hillsborough County. Organizers of both groups hope similar groups will form throughout Florida, eventually creating a state-wide nonprofit network.
Arts for Health Sarasota-Manatee (formerly the Coalition for Arts and Health) and Arts for Health Tampa Bay have joined forces under the administration of the Arts Council of Hillsborough County. Both organizations promote the use of the arts to enhance health and well-being and offer education and networking opportunities for artists and healthcare providers. For membership information, go to www.artsforhealthflorida.org.