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Med Humanit. 2014 Jun;40(1):56-60. doi: 10.1136/medhum-2013-010448. Epub 2014 Jan 15.

Fight like a ferret: a novel approach of using art therapy to reduce anxiety in stroke patients undergoing hospital rehabilitation.

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Academic Department of Geriatrics, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton, West Sussex, UK.
School of Art, Media and Design, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK.
School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK.



The holistic aspect of stroke rehabilitation to include psychological well-being is currently neglected, with more emphasis placed on physical recovery despite anxiety and depression being common poststroke. From the limited amount of current literature, it seems that creative strategies such as art therapy (AT) can be beneficial in reducing isolation and anxiety among stroke patients.


Stroke patients (able to consent) in a hospital rehabilitation unit were invited to participate in two weekly AT sessions for 6 weeks, facilitated by an art psychotherapist using paints, crayons, clay, a camera and an iPad. Hospital anxiety and depression scales (HAD) and therapy outcome measures (TOM) were measured at the beginning and end of the study.


Six male patients were recruited, average age 69 years (38-85). Group discussions allowed patients to express openly feelings of frustration as well as hope for physical and emotional recovery: 'fight like a ferret', an expression used by a group member. The group produced several art objects and photographic images that were collated using stop-frame animation to produce a 10 min film. Median HAD score for the group was eight points upon entering the study and six points on finishing the study.


There is little attention to the emotional needs of stroke patients in rehabilitation. Properly designed research studies exploring the role of AT in addressing anxiety and depression poststroke are needed. Our study showed that AT was a feasible intervention that helped patients explore the sequel of stroke in an open supportive environment.


Arts Therapist; Care of the Elderly

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