Art + Music: A Therapeutic Combination

By:  Bridgette Loiselle, OTR/L, FAM Therapist/Roboticist

Art of all forms can be remedial. Take music for example. Music is transformative and transcendent, taking us on a journey through different moods, emotions, and memories. It brings communities together, joins church-goers in worship, and helps guide an infant to sleep. 

Then there are the visual arts – painting, drawing, and sculpting, to name a few. The creative process of engaging with these types of media have been shown to light up multiple parts of our brains and provide meditative releases for emotions, often being used in neuro-rehabilitation centers and mental health clinics.

Individually, visual arts and music are highly beneficial for people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. Together, research has found even greater benefits to the physiological, socio-emotional, and behavioral systems. What does this look like? Let’s explore.

In a study using art and music reminisce therapy, a group of 68 adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) engaged in a weekly, three-month long program consisting of drawing and music reminisce therapy. The results were significant, showing improvements in working memory, visuospatial abilities, attention, and executive function – and these improvements were sustained at nine months post intervention.

In another study looking at interventions to decrease depression in adolescents, painting and music were combined for seven, 2-hour sessions and administered to 12 individuals in the intervention group. Twelve teens were in the control group, receiving no treatment. Pre- and post-tests were taken, showing a 44% average decrease in depressive symptoms in the intervention group with no significant decrease in the control group.

And for everyday life, art + music can foster creativity, calm moods, and positivity. It’s easy to do and doesn’t take many supplies at all! So if you’re looking for a pick-me-up, have a loved one with a mental or cognitive illness, or are just curious, I challenge you to try this quick arts activity – grab a friend, too. Don’t worry about the end product, it’s the creative process, the doing, that’s important. As Pablo Picasso said:

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”      



Let’s get creative!

Duration:  10 minutes


  • Watercolor palette with paint brush or pencil/paper (all found at your local dollar store)
  • Source of music (Youtube, Spotify, CD player, radio, etc.)
  • Piece of paper


  • Turn on a song of your choice, preferably with just music and no words.
  • Paint/draw shapes, lines, and curves to the music, using as many colors as possible.
  • Don’t think about what you’re doing, just let your hand move with your artistic instrument of choice.
  • At the end of the song, look at what you created.
  • Ask yourself these questions:
    • “How do you feel?”
    • “Did the song bring up any memories?”
    • “What is the strongest emotion felt right now?”

Be well ☺

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