Boston Hospitals’ Creative Approach to Healing

Art as a form of healing has been a formal practice at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center and Boston Children’s Hospital since the late 1990’s but it seems that, until recently, the care hasn’t been a well-known supplement to treatment. It may be due to current ongoing research of the benefits of art, increased funding for program development, or simply that people are looking for alternative and additional methods to cope and heal.

“The clinical team is coming around to it more and more because there is more evidence. Patients and families are becoming better consumers and they want the whole package…they want to feel better physically and see their course of treatment. They need another way to cope, and sometimes you just need something for your soul, heart, and mind. Art and music do just that.” -Miranda Day, Creative Arts Program Administration Manager at Boston Children’s Hospital

The Integrative Therapies program at MGH and Boston Children’s Creative Arts program have expanded to include different areas of alternative therapeutic treatment, including art therapy in both. Sticking to the base of expressive therapies, neither program requires previous knowledge or practice of art, music, etc. They have been designed to serve their patients either bedside or in small groups when appropriate, and welcome sessions with family members and close friends.

Holly Chartrand, the Patient Coordinator of the Integrative Therapies program and a Clinical Musical Therapist at MGH, has seen the program grow over the years. With the perspective of a coordinator and therapist she understands the program’s work from both sides. She said MGH began its program with massage therapy and has grown to include music therapy, acupuncture, art therapy, tai chi and qigong. Chartrand is part of the 17-person integrative therapies team that works not only with patients going through oncology care, but psychiatric as well.

“It’s been very popular and we often have a waitlist,” she said, “Our patients are seen over time…rarely do we see a patient just once.” Patients are given a treatment plan that incorporates the integrative therapies. The team works with clinicians to diagnose and determine “continuity with care if it’s clinically indicated to be seen over time.” For example, “an acupuncturist with a patient has a treatment plan based on their needs and diagnosis,” she said, “then, they will make a clinical judgement and the patient will be seen for successions.”

Integrative therapies at MGH are provided by trained professionals and are not only available as individual sessions, but as workshops and support groups as well. A monthly calendar is released with a wide range of supportive care services. “It’s a great program that’s well-accessed by patients,” said Chartrand,”[the programs] can make a positive impact on their experience and it’s really great that we have it to offer to patients while they’re ill and being treated.

The Creative Arts program is philanthropically funded and rely on donations. “The services are complimentary and unfortunately never guaranteed due to limited resources,” said Chartrand. However, patients still take full advantage of the program’s drop-in classes and on-call therapies.  Chartrand expressed her interest in the program expanding to other departments of the hospital and eventually to other Boston-area hospitals. “We’re ready to grow to other areas, but it really comes down to funding,” said Chartrand.

Miranda Day, the Creative Arts Program Administration Manager at Boston Children’s, has been with the hospital for over ten years and has also seen the it become “a more cohesive program.” At Boston Children’s, the Creative Arts team works to develop “engaging, innovative, and uplifting experiences” for children and their families going through care. The Creative Arts Program has many different experiences to choose from including: artists-in-residence, music therapy, art cart, and Seacrest studios. Although a little difficult to determine, Day believes that music therapy has been the most popular as it transcends age and ability, making it more relatable to families and kids. The hospital has also partnered with the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp; each providing a variety of healing community/individual activities and art education for the patients. “There is a beauty in having variety because people are varied and unique gives them the opportunity to be unique and do what they love well rounded program,” said Day.

Robin DeSantis, the Artful Healing Program Coordinator at the Museum of Fine Arts who has also worked as an art educator with patients, believes that the partnerships between hospitals provide great programs. “We recognize that art and art making can be healing ad that the process of making art helps alleviate anxiety,” she said, “learning about different works of art in different parts of the world can help a child’s development in various ways. . .it serves as a sort of respite from whatever treatment they may be going through in a hospital setting.”

The programs at Boston Children’s have been quite popular, with 33,000 patients and families participating just last year. Day said that according to a quality improvement study done two years ago, the results have been “extremely positive.” “Both patients and parents reported that their pain level went down,” she said. Anxiety levels were reported to have decreased substantially as well from care.

“Music therapy, like psychology or social work, can be part of their health care,” said Day. “They get referrals from the medical team, or are self-referred, so it is more of a clinical approach.” When they are self-reffered it is mostly based on “knowing what the kids are interested in. . .sometimes the families are good advocates for themselves.” Like MGH, Boston Children’s is not limited to one area of patient care. The Creative Arts program goes through inpatient care, including the intensive care unit.

Day said that she would love the program to expand to other areas of the hospital and Boston Children’s (Longwood) has already implemented creative arts into their satellite locations in Jamaica Plain, Waltham, Peabody, Norwood, Lexington as they’re growing in staff and abilities. “I see this being more of a traditional part of care instead of an extra in healthcare as the years go by,” she said. “People are always seeking a way to cope, whether it’s through reading, exercise, or art,” said Day, “Especially when you lose abilities, art is a great way to release stress to think about what youre going through in a different way.” She believes that art has such a healing element that it only makes sense to be part of healthcare.

Art as a form of healing is not unique to Boston and is constantly expanding to other areas of the United States. The American Art Therapy Association has detailed information regarding implementation, outcomes, and applications of art therapy in clinical settings, including successful program listings from hospitals all over the country.





American Psychological Association (APA) as a Resource

The American Psychological Association is a very useful source for keeping up on current research and news in the world of psychology. Although it is the American association, much of the news is international. I especially like the organization’s mission of expanding knowledge psychology and engaging students and professors, by creating content that is clear and understandable. They also provide a Publications and Databases section with detailed suggested materials to find further resources.

In terms of how engaging this source is with its readers, I haven’t seen much in the way of comments on the site’s articles. However, on Facebook and Twitter it is very active with a lot of curated materials.

As a student interested in psychology and still close to the beginning of learning more about the field, I have found it very helpful so far. The research available through PsychINFO for public access is a great resource to double check facts I may have found on other sources or to further back up something that I read. The page Science of Psychology has also been a great resource as it divides the information into the different field of psychology such as brain science and cognitive psychology.

One thing I would say that the site could improve on is perhaps being a little less overwhelming. I know this might be hard because there is so much information for this organization to include on its site as psychology is such as massive field of science. At times I felt like I had to do some digging before I found anything that could be of use, mostly because it has a lot of things that are for sale available, which essentially is my issue. The Psychology Topics page is the best example of how the site solves this issue well through organization that makes sense to people who don’t know everything about the field. This is where I usually go when I’m specifically interested in a topic and want to learn more.

Other sources to check out that are similar and also informative are The American Art Therapy Association and the International Art Therapy Association, as these are more narrow in subject matter.

Monday Morning at South End Buttery


Most famous for its brunch, the South End Buttery is a bakery, market, restaurant and bar located in, you guessed it, the South End. There are two locations in the area, one on Shawmut Ave and the other on Clarendon Street (I visited the Shawmut Ave location.) The cozy atmosphere and contemporary menu have helped The Buttery win many dining awards in Boston and keep their customers coming back for more.

I visited The Buttery on a rainy Monday morning for a cup of coffee ($2.50 for a 16oz medium) but I was in the mood for something fancy, so I tried an espresso latte. They brew Equator Coffee and Tea which is ethically sourced and from San Rafael, California. The Buttery is currently renovating their main cafe, so I went over to their market area which didn’t have any tables and was more of a ‘to-go’ environment. Despite the renovations, I still had a nice experience, the employees were friendly and I didn’t have to wait long. There is a ‘cafe renovation menu’ for the time being (expected another few weeks.)I did see a few people sitting at The Buttery’s bar around the corner to enjoy the morning paper and a coffee, so the renovation doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on regular customers.

I found that it was a pretty local place, tucked in the heart of the South End. Kit Norton, a South End resident, said he usually goes there on Sunday mornings to get a cappuccino. “It’s a nice place,” he said, “it’s a pleasant stroll through the neighborhood.”

It would be nice to visit again once the renovations are all done and have the full brunch experience I’ve heard so much about!


37 Clarendon St., Boston, MA 02116

Closest MBTA Stop: Back Bay Orange Line/Commuter Rail

Accessibility: handicapped-accessible

Contact: (617) 482-1015 (Shawmut)

(617) 482-1015 (Clarendon)

Cafe Hours: 6am-6pm Daily (Shawmut)

6:30am-8pm (Clarendon)

Looking into the Correlation Between Weather and Sales at Boston Public Market

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 6.07.32 PM.pngLately there has been some unusual weather in Boston, setting records for high temperatures in winter months. There have been more people out and about, however, markets and restaurants have not yet opened their outside venues or patios. Curious about how markets deal with the constant (and inconsistent) weather changes of New England, I visited Boston Public Market to ask some of the vendors about their sales and if there was any relation.

Check out the video of my coverage here.


Drawing Together: Creative Expression for America

Last week I attended an event hosted by Mass Art called “Drawing Together: Creative Expression for America. This group drawing and art therapy event is part of a series called DRAW/BOSTON that is open to the public every Wednesday night from 6-8:00pm in the Bakalar & Paine Galleries at Mass Art. The event is free, facilitated by professionals, and the best part is you don’t need to have any drawing experience! 

“I wanted to use my creativity to imagine something hopeful and creative.” Trina Jackson, Participant


Playing with Storify: The Growing Spread of Mindfulness Practice in the Classroom

Photo: CC0, Jordan Sanchez for Unsplash, 2015

Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist meditation practice and has been part of a popular trend in the United States in recent years. This practice can be used to help strengthen focus and reduce anxiety, which can be very beneficial when we need a clear mind to produce art!



Last year I took a course on mindfulness and its theories at Northeastern, where we practiced everyday outside and inside the classroom. This week I saw an article written about mindfulness practice being implemented into other courses at Northeastern, so I decided to check out how the trend was moving along.

I tried to play a little bit with this topic on a site I hadn’t tried before, Storify, to gather some information through last week’s challenge: Twitter. My post can be seen here on Storify.

My Experiment with Live Tweeting


As I wrote in my last post, Twitter has never been a social media go-to for me, so this experiment with live Tweeting was definitely a challenge. This weekend, I attended “Sensory Carnival Saturdays” hosted at the artlery160 gallery on Federal Street in Boston. Artist Sloat Shaw designed the gallery in a way that not only exhibited her paintings, but allowed the viewers to experience them in a whole new way. Stations were set up for participants to test out with items such as aromatherapy oils and massage balls to stimulate their senses. Before and after the experiment, visitors could take a sensory baseline test to discover how their brain was reacting to the stimuli. This event was so interesting and engaging, with a great message about connecting to our inner artist. I’ll also be attending the Pop Up Talk on creativity and the brain later on this week.

Going to this event, I basically wanted to accomplish my goal of understanding Twitter. I also wanted to see if it were possible to participate in an event of this nature while covering it. While I was there I found that it was quite difficult to be fully present, especially because this event required concentration to participate. I felt distracted and that I was being rude while on my phone, so I explained to the artist what I was doing.

Although it was difficult, I do see the positives in Tweeting live.I think that covering an event as it happens can be more interesting and perhaps more accurate. It’s not necessary to write in full detail, and pictures/videos definitely help to explain a situation more than the 140 character limit. Overall, I don’t think I would try live Tweeting again, perhaps in a different kind of event that’s less intimate.

Alternative Theories on the Evolution of Media

Photo:CC0, Unsplash, 2015

The following videos from 1981, 1994, and 2015 each described an evolution of digital media: Report from KRON in San Francisco“The Tablet Newspaper: A Vision for the Future”“EPIC 2015”, respectively.

In the KRON report, we can see the beginnings of internet journalism as an experiment that the creators were solely testing and not looking for a profit. Their idea of an electronic newspaper was accurate, however quite costly and a bit inconvenient. The paper would need to be ordered over the phone and take about two hours to download onto a home computer. We can see from this video that they were on track to discovering that online news would eventually take print away and that journalists have been thinking of digital resources for quite some time. All in all, the ideas were there, but the technological progress was not up to their speed.

Roger Fidler, often referred to as the man who created the tablet before Steve Jobs. In this video, Fidler introduced interactivity of newspapers, including touch screens with maps and videos, and advertisements and articles catered to personal interests. Basically, a smart tablet of today. He was right in that the resolution was a lot better than today’s devices and he predicted that papers would be eager to get rid of the cost of printing. However, without wireless internet, the kiosk idea was a bit strange and didn’t catch on. A great take-away from this video is that physical papers need to evolve.

Finally, the EPIC clip voiced predictions for the future of Google (and Amazon.) The video was accurate in that it showed how interconnected everything would eventually be as it is today. To have Google with other platforms that eventually connect to a device (modern day smartphone) and for things such as podcasts and location indicators becoming popular. It was a little off in describing the way that everything evolved but the general ideas remain true.

Overall, these videos contained some accuracies that became untrue mostly due to technological advancements.