The Session

A typical session is a one-on-one interaction between the teaching artist and the patient. Prior to entry into the room, the teaching artist will typically check in with the nurses and child life specialists to determine the status of the patients they will see and what, if any, special requests have been made by the patient or family.

The teaching artist (depending on their specialty) will come into the room equipped with art supplies, writing materials, musical instruments and any other items that may be needed to successfully complete the session.

After entering the room, the artist will introduce themselves to the patient and their families and ask if they would like to participate in a session and, if agreeable, the session will begin.

It should be noted that there can be a wide variety of responses to these requests for sessions which can be driven by age, enjoyment of art, level of sickness, or number of other people in the room. Sometimes there is full participation with the patient and sometimes it can be very limited depending on circumstances discussed above. Sometimes family members can be in the room and will be part of the session. Sometimes the artist will do all the work if the patient is unable and the patient will guide the direction of the art. No matter the level of patient participation, there is lots of talking, laughing and love in the room.

Over time, this regiment of treatment can become very demoralizing and tedious, leaving the patient feeling helpless to make any choices on their own. When the teaching artist comes into the room they start by giving the patient the choice to even have the session, which is a huge juxtaposition from their day-to-day life.

Once the session starts (if it is a fine artist) they are given choices to draw, paint, sculpt, or any combination of mediums. Being able to decide what to draw, what colors to use, and all the other choices they could possibly make are all very uplifting for the patient and help to relieve the child’s stress.

Sometimes, the most powerful choice they can make is to say “no” to any art session and decide what to do or not do for the session. Those sessions can lead to a better understanding of their fears, concerns and needs, which in turn, gets passed onto the child life specialist. For example, a patient may want to see a specific family member, contact a friend, make a request for a special food item, experience a special trip away from the hospital, or any number of special requests. Sometimes it is the language of art and the interaction between the patient and artist that can bring all of these things out of a child in crisis and provide them the courage to speak up.