Art and Healing: A Conversation with ProMedica’s Valerie Thompson

For many, art is a means of expression, a conversation starter, a way to brighten a space. But for ProMedica graphic designer and Toledo, Ohio, native Valerie Thompson, art is much more than that; it’s a form of healing.

“Art has a healing quality to it. You experience it. You feel it. You’re going to be affected by it,” said Thompson. “When you purposefully start to use art in ways that haven’t been done before or in ways that are customized for particular results, you’re going to see a significant and dramatic change in a person.”

Whether it is used to process difficult emotions after a traumatic event, or even physically reduce pain in cancer patients, art’s healing properties are becoming more and more abundantly clear and accepted by the medical community. The Journal of the American Art Therapy Association in 2016 found that “45 minutes of creating art in a studio setting with an art therapist significantly lowered cortisol levels.” According to a survey by the American Art Therapy Association, “the vast majority (64.5%) [of art therapists surveyed] said they were considered to be ‘essential workers’ by their employers.”

Over the past decade, ProMedica has increasingly sought and implemented art initiatives to promote both individual and community healing, from installing powerful artwork in its facilities to partnering with local artists to create public art installations.

As a graphic designer at ProMedica for nearly nine years, Thompson is playing a key role in art’s healing impact at the organization.

“For a health care organization to take those facts and proof, and put it to use in a way that will provide an additional layer of healing that’s holistic and natural, I think is revolutionary,” said Thompson.

In one of ProMedica’s recent initiatives – a docuseries that discusses various topics such as social determinants of health, healthy aging and more – Thompson shares her perspective on art and healing, and how it’s implemented in all aspects of the organization’s community offerings.

“ProMedica has always been a supporter of the arts, but this initiative takes it to the next level. We not only want to support our local art community and beautify our spaces, but we want our patients to have the absolute best, optimal healing experience they possibly can,” she said. “Because art has proven itself to do that, we’re going to use it not just for the patient advantages, but for our entire community, as well.”

As for the next generation of young artists looking to make an impact in the medical field, Thompson encourages them to find the right mentors. And most importantly:

“Be true to yourself. If you know you like art, and you know that it’s something you’re interested in as far as a career, don’t let anything stop you from figuring out what the next step is in achieving that.”