Nurturing Your Child

Creative Arts Therapy

Creative art therapies, such as art therapy and music therapy, can help people of all ages and abilities make sense of their experience in the hospital and express their thoughts and feelings in an alternative, non-threatening way.

Children who are hospitalized may experience fear, anxiety, and a perceived loss of control. Creative arts therapies allow your child to express himself or herself and can help make the hospital environment more manageable. A session with a licensed and board-certified art or music therapist offers your child the opportunity to make choices and gain control in an environment where he or she doesn't always have those options.

At NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital, creative arts therapists are an integral part of the interdisciplinary team. Art and music clinicians will work with your child and family to alleviate anxiety and depression, decrease stress, improve coping, manage pain, and help patients and families process psychosocial and emotional difficulties related to mental illness, medical illness, trauma, and loss.

Art therapy and music therapy are both available to your child and your family by referral. For more information, reach out to your child life specialist, nurse, social worker, or physician.


About Creative Arts Therapy

What is creative arts therapy?
Creative arts therapy is a profession that uses active engagement in the arts to address mental, emotional, developmental, and behavioral disorders. Creative arts therapy uses the relationship between the patient and therapist in the context of the artistic process as a dynamic force for change. It can also be used to manage stress and promote mental and physical health.

Creative arts therapists are trained in psychotherapy and in specific arts disciplines, which may include dance/movement therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, poetry therapy and art therapy. They have training in areas that include clinical practice and human development as well as the use of the creative arts to provide appropriate services, and multicultural and artistic traditions.

Who may practice creative arts therapy?
Only licensed creative arts therapists, and certain others exempt under the licensing law, may practice the profession. None of these exempt individuals, however, may use the title of licensed creative arts therapist unless they are also licensed in creative arts therapy.

What kind of training do creative arts therapists receive?
Creative arts therapists are trained in psychotherapy and in specific arts disciplines, which may include dance/movement therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, poetry therapy and art therapy. They have training in areas that include clinical practice and human development as well as the use of the creative arts to provide appropriate services, and multicultural and artistic traditions.

What credentials do licensed creative arts therapists have?
These professionals train in both creative arts and psychotherapy. Other than those creative arts therapists licensed under the special provisions established in law for those already practicing when the new law came into effect, each New York licensed practitioner has a master's or higher degree in a program of creative arts therapy or its equivalent, has passed a State-approved exam or assessment, and has completed at least 1,500 hours of clinical experience under the supervision of a qualified, licensed mental health professional. Those licensed under the special provisions meet other standards specified in law and regulation.

Where do licensed creative arts therapists practice?
Creative arts therapists may work as part of a team that determines and implements a program to address the patient’s needs. They may work in a private practice or practice with other licensed creative arts therapists or in other settings authorized to provide professional services.

What services do licensed creative arts therapists provide?
Creative arts therapists use assessment instruments and mental health counseling and psychotherapy to identify, evaluate, and treat dysfunctions and disorders for the purpose of providing appropriate creative arts therapy services. Creative arts therapists help people with chronic illnesses, substance abuse problems, and physical or developmental disabilities; learning disabilities; and other mental health needs.

By guiding patients to create and reflect on art and the artistic process, creative arts therapists help people increase awareness of themselves and others, cope with the symptoms of stress, illness and trauma, and enhance cognitive abilities. They help their patients improve self-esteem, develop more effective communications skills and relationships, gain insight into patterns of behavior, and create new options for coping with problems.

How do licensees provide these services?
Creative arts therapists evaluate their patients to identify and provide needed services. They work in a variety of settings with people of all ages in groups, families, or individually. While therapeutic interventions vary according to the needs of the patient and the art discipline, the following are examples of creative arts therapy:

  • Using music, both listening and active music making, to facilitate change in mental, physical, and social functioning
  • Employing art media, images, the creative process, and responses to art to reflect an individual’s development, abilities, personality, interests, concerns, and conflicts
  • Working with dance or movement to address feelings, cognitions, physical functioning, and behavior, and to facilitate change
  • Helping patients tell their stories through drama to solve a problem, achieve a catharsis, extend their inner experiences, and understand personal roles
  • Using poetry and other forms of literature in the healing process and for personal growth
  • Structuring “psychodramas” to recreate and enact scenes that lead to insight and an opportunity to practice new life skills

****Source: New York State Education Office of the Professions

Art Therapy

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
— Thomas Merton

Kids drawingArt therapy is a form of psychotherapy which utilizes creative mediums and self-expression as a conduit of change and growth. This form of therapy is practiced by a board certified, licensed art therapist who is extensively trained in the areas of human development, fine art, and psychotherapy.

Art therapists work closely with each individual’s multidisciplinary team and assist each person in their exploration of self-expression. Art therapy can be used to assess and treat a wide variety of common struggles related to hospitalizations such as changes in mood, self-esteem, coping, and communication. Participants do not have to be artists or have experience in the arts to fully engage in and benefit from art therapy.

The open art studio model provides a safe space for participants to share the many thoughts and feelings that come with illness and hospitalizations. People may feel that diagnosis and treatment feels difficult or even impossible to put into words. For children, it can be particularly frustrating as they do not possess the linguistic abilities of adults. Art therapy supports and validates the natural language of children: visual expression. Common goals of art therapy include promoting positive body image, socialization, a sense of mastery, normalization, and development of healthy coping.

Art therapy is made available at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Komansky Children’s Hospital through the generous support and efforts of Tracy’s Kids, a charitable nonprofit organization that provides art therapy to all Hematology-Oncology patients and their families, free of charge.

For more information about the art therapy profession, please visit the American Art Therapy Association’s website.

For more information about Tracy’s Kids, please visit

Music Therapy

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
— Victor Hugo

Music therapy is an established healthcare profession that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals of all ages. At Komansky Children's Hospital, we utilize music therapy to decrease stress, anxiety, and pain while promoting healthy coping during hospitalization.

Our music therapist is licensed and board-certified in the State of New York. During music therapy sessions, children may engage in spontaneous musical play or engage in relaxation session. Children may select and sing favorite songs, or may work with the therapist over several sessions to create music and lyrics for original songs. Patients also may have the opportunity to record music and create a permanent product of their work. Younger children may not be able to directly articulate concerns or fears that they are experiencing, but music can be a non-verbal way for children to express those concerns.

Our music therapist also provides services on the NICU. Music therapy is used to increase relaxation so preemies can rest, grow, and heal faster. We also work with the parents to create a parent recording so the babies can hear their parent’s voices even when they aren’t there to help facilitate bonding.

Music therapy is currently provided on a referral basis. Priority is given to patients with life-threatening illnesses or critical health status, patients who lack expressive communication skills, or patients who lack social support during hospitalization.

Music therapy services are generously funded by Encourage Kids. We are very grateful to the Foundation for the opportunity to offer this important and meaningful clinical service to patients and their families at NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital. For more information, please visit the Encourage Kids website.