Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy: Art Therapy | March 14, 2015

Reach out. Be creative. Feel good about yourself. That’s what art therapy is all about.

The creative process of art can help resolve conflicts, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress and build the self-image of children, adolescents and adults with epilepsy.

It can help develop artistic expression…build autonomy…empower …build a stability and a sense of self-worth as well as connecting with others in a new and wondrous way.

“Art therapy can be especially helpful to people with epilepsy who isolate themselves and have difficulty engaging with others and feeling comfortable in social settings.

Because parents and people with epilepsy are often concerned with safety and the possibility of embarrassment, their lives can become further limited in terms of interaction — socially, educationally, or in the workplace.

For those reasons, children with epilepsy may not make a confident transition to a more autonomous lifestyle as they become adults.

Therefore, art therapy can be very helpful in the processes of engagement, transition, and socialization.” Elizabeth Coss, MA, ATR-BC & Steven C. Schachter, MD

Many people with epilepsy say that the freedom of art helps them to express their experiences of seizures .

“Individuals with epilepsy face many challenges including coping with the unpredictability of seizures, possible side effects of medications, perception or fear of stigma associated with their medical condition, and social barriers.

Art therapy groups can provide an opportunity for individuals living with epilepsy to creatively explore some of their experiences — including their resources and strengths — in a safe and supportive environment.

Art-based processes engage participants with a variety of sensory-rich art materials and enjoyable methods for the discovery of each person’s unique capacity for problem solving and self-expression.

Sharing of artwork within the group and in carefully and ethically–considered exhibitions for the public, may enhance participants’ sense of belonging and self-esteem and promote increased awareness and understanding of epilepsy.” Janice Havlena, ATR-BC, Professor of Art Therapy, Edgewood College, Madison, WI

Not to mention, it’s also a way to reduce stress which, in turn, can lower seizure frequency.

A paintbrush is a powerful communication tool for experiences that are hard to explain in words.

It helps and allows your mind to wander without any restriction. The mixture of colors and the strokes define the inner feelings you want to express.

Your art is the extension of who you are, what you want and where you want to be. Your masterpiece, no matter how you made it, is priceless.

It has no monetary value, it’s a piece of your history and the expression of yourself. It is your specialty.

Danielle Jweid, an art therapist, said her early love of art initially led her to pursue a bachelor of fine arts at Old Dominion University, with a painting concentration.

“An art therapy course inspired me to change my goal from art professor to art therapist,” she said.

“Art therapy makes the nonverbal tangible; people are able to express thoughts and feelings that they don’t have words for or that the words are hard to say.

Making art sometimes allows more underlying content to emerge than would be verbalized,” said Jweid, stressing that the process is as important as they product.

“Once artwork is created, discussing thoughts and feelings that occurred during its creation and finished state, helps people to fully obtain the healing benefits on a more cognitive level.”

Cathy Hozack who has had epilepsy since she was a young child, says: “My mind makes sense of the world in its own way, using a compilation of images and memories to create a permanent record of my emotions and experiences.”

And look what you can achieve!

Leonardo Da Vinci, Lewis Carroll, and Michelangelo were some of the famous artists who lived with epilepsy. And it could well be that their epilepsy played a part in their fantastic talents.

“It has often been said that Van Gogh’s use of yellow was a result of his suffering from xanthopsia, a condition that causes the person to see everything as though through a yellow filter. Xanthopsia was a side effect of digitalis, often used to treat epilepsy.” — Nicola Swanborough, Epilepsy Review

Quentin Bruckland, an art therapist once said “Art is a way of making sense of the huge impact that recurring seizures can have on your life. Art can help a person develop greater self-awareness and come to terms with the uncertainties of epilepsy.”


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Click to access epilepsytoolkit.pdf



  1. Art therapy is so helpful for for people with Epilepsy it Destress me


    Comment by MaryLeeParker — March 14, 2015 @ 5:41 PM

  2. I love painting and sketching so I agree, it’s a wonderful stress reliever which as you point out minimizes seizures. I hope you enjoy various forms of art too!


    Comment by Letizia — March 14, 2015 @ 7:46 PM

  3. Sort of like a “bus man’s” holiday! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 15, 2015 @ 1:35 PM

  4. I listen to music, to clam my nerves


    Comment by michele metzger — March 15, 2015 @ 3:20 PM

  5. Believe or not Michele, music played at a moderate or moderately fast tempo, without too many abrupt changes in dynamics (loud and soft) can aid in normalizing EEGs. That’s because it helps us to relax and ease tension, equalizing the brain waves. (Look for Concertos, Sonatas and Symphonies.)

    Music can also change behavior. The right kind can turn depression into joy, anger to calmness, hate to love, and fear to courage. Beautiful music has an effect on all people and it can soothe and take away feelings of frustration and anger.

    So you’ve definitely made a stellar choice! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 15, 2015 @ 5:39 PM

  6. I do a lot of different types of needle work and it calms me. It is because I am concentrating on the stitches and counting the stitches it clears my mind. I do counted cross stitching. I made a Monopoly Board that measures 3′ square and won 2nd place in a contest in the state. Make old fur coats into teddy bears. I have made every family member a hand stitched quilt and I and just learning how to knit. It is all relaxing I find.


    Comment by Nicole Koloski — March 15, 2015 @ 8:05 PM

  7. Wow! A lady of many talents. I wish I could do a fifth of that! 🙂

    Congratulations on your Monopoly Board win.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 16, 2015 @ 8:50 AM

  8. Learning to play the piano is my artistic endeavour nowadays. I can play quite well, fur elise and moonlight sonate mov1, now i’m working on hungarian rhapsody 2 and Clair de lune. All of them are beautiful songs, that are chilling yet quite mellow. I just have a nice Keyboard that i can hook up into my computer speakers and it sounds very good. Like anything, if one wants to learn something it takes time (lots of time) and commitment, the passion to doing it and seeing it through to the end.


    Comment by Zolt — March 16, 2015 @ 2:01 PM

  9. Your passion is something we could all benefit from — as well as your dedication!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 16, 2015 @ 2:05 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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