Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg on May 02, 2013

Sources

Susie Sherrill, PhD, LPC; Skyland Trail Treatment Center, Atlanta, GA Ruddy R "Art Therapy for Schizophrenia or Schizophrenia-like illnesses" Cochrane Database Syst Rev-01-JAN 2005(4).

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Video Transcript

Narrator: Jerome Lawrence was a young art student when he was first diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Jerome Lawrence: I had started thinking incorrectly. Looking back on it, I can realize a lot of times people would talk to me and I would misunderstand what they would say… I would think they said one thing when they said another and that sort of progressed to me imagining whole scenarios of what was going on when it wasn't going on at all.

Rosalynn Carter: The earlier you catch it, the better off that person with mental illness is.

Narrator: Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has made it one of her missions to raise awareness about the plight of the mentally ill. She first met Jerome Lawrence during a Habitat for Humanity groundbreaking ceremony for his new home and says his progress is inspirational Though his treatment may well have pulled him out of the abyss; it's his artwork where he finds his solace. More studies are needed, but there is growing support for the idea that both the visual and the performance arts may have a profound and positive impact in aiding the mentally ill.

Rosalynn Carter: Arts give people a sense of esteem. And kind of control, you know, 'I can do this'.

Jerome Lawrence: Art is all about problem solving. And I think the major problem with having a mental illness is that you lose the ability to solve your own problems.

Susie Sherrill, PhD, LPC: All therapy with art creates a mirror for the client to look into and see what's going on within themselves when they're not aware of it consciously.

Narrator: Susie Sherrill has had success in using art as a therapy to help her clients unravel their problems. She cautions, however, that it is not a replacement for patients getting on the proper medication.

Susie Sherrill, PhD, LPC: They definitely need to be grounded in reality enough to be able to come in here and let their imagination come out in a work of art, rather than believing that what they're imagining is real.

Narrator: Jerome Lawrence draws the same distinction:

Jerome Lawrence: In the height of my schizophrenia I would go into this paranoia and these delusions with no control of my own—it would just happen. And when I'm working with art I can imagine things. I can call up my imagination, or I can block out things at will and then if I'm called outside of this world back to the real world, I can do that easily.

Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.