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TB Notes 3, 2006
Highlights from State and Local Programs
  Art Therapy Helps Isolated Patients: Exhibition at Bellevue Hospital Center
  Surgeon General Visits Clinic in Hawaii
DTBE World TB Day Activities
National TB Controllers’ Association Poster Contest
EIS Conference a Success for DTBE
Regional Training and Medical Consultation Centers’ Needs Assessments
Laboratory Update
Communications, Education, and Behavioral Studies Branch Updates
TB Education and Training Network Update
  Member Highlight
  Cultural Competency Subcommittee
TB Epidemiologic Studies Consortium Update
  TBESC Task Order 6 (TO6) Update: Regional Capacity-Building in Low-Incidence Areas
  New TBESC Study to Be Launched: Evaluation of New Interferon-gamma Release Assays in the Diagnosis of Latent TB Infection in Health Care Workers
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TB Notes Newsletter

No. 3, 2006


Art Therapy Helps Isolated Patients: Exhibition at Bellevue Hospital Center

In recognition of World TB Day, an evocative art exhibit took place on March 24, 2006, at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City. The drawings were the result of an active art therapy program offered to patients in an effort to make the experience of isolation more humane and manageable. Art therapy is based on the premise that thoughts and feelings may be effectively expressed through creative processes. Intense emotion and difficult issues find form and constructive release through the nonthreatening, insight-oriented modality.

Images of art work that contains flowers.Engaging in positive activities for hospitalized patients helps dissipate anxiety, reduce agitated behavior, and foster self-esteem. Art-making has been a catalyst in the shift from passivity to activity, disability to ability, victimization to mastery. Not surprisingly, patients in isolation are often calmer, better adjusted to their restrictions, and, ultimately, more adherent to medication regimens and hospitalization.

The Bellevue program was conceived to assist patients in coping with detention. With the resurgence of TB in the 1980s and the establishment of the hospital’s secure unit, Dr. Irene Rosner David initiated an arts program specifically for isolated TB patients. Recently the TB program has received financial support from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Bio-Terrorism Preparedness Grant, whereby TB services have been expanded in order to create a model program for potential quarantine. With this funding, the TB program hired a part-time grantee to provide a comprehensive art program, which included a variety of media, styles, and directives. In the past year, art therapist Julie Combal, MPS, has expanded this work and initiated creative interventions to meet the needs of this complex population. The program is a strong component within a broader context of long-standing and valued therapeutic arts services at Bellevue.

Pianting with roadrunners and roads.One of the challenges is to integrate the infectious isolated patients with others, despite structural barriers. One-to-one intervention is provided to those in single isolation rooms, but there are also innovative projects such as the production of collaborative murals. Individual patients create sections of a picture that become incorporated into a cohesive whole. The mural pieces are configured by the noninfectious patients in a dayroom setting and photographed. The photo is then provided to each isolated patient, allowing each of them to see his or her pictorial contribution as significant in the completed mural. The psychological message to those alone in their rooms is “you’ve connected with are part of a community.” Another project is in a collective periodic journal consisting of illustrations, poems, and stories. It is validating for each contributor, and also serves as a vehicle for communication with one another. The most poignant examples are from the more seasoned, noninfectious patients encouraging those still in isolation with messages like “hang in there.”

Image of artworkThe exhibit also included several images of people wearing hygienic masks. Interestingly, a historic drawing dating from 1945 is strikingly similar to those from 1995 and 2005. The images eloquently convey fear, sadness, and anger. The recent patient whose work expressed anger later drew a forlorn eye looking out into the corridor “in order to be closer to people.” The act of dissipating feelings is not only therapeutic, but the imagery conveyed can be revealing and moving to caregivers.

A number of patients were quoted as saying that the experience of enforced hospitalization has helped them. As they are supported through their emotional issues, there is often a validated sense of self. Through the elegance and inherently healing nature of art, they attempt to rotate an untenable situation into one of well-being and commitment to healthier living. This element was reflected in the artwork, and the exhibit’s impact was apparent in the impressive commentary by attendees.

The photos below of art from this program were taken at the recent NTCA meeting in Atlanta.



For further information on art therapy, contact the American Art Therapy Association at; for regional art therapists search ‘AATA Chapters.’

Submitted by Irene Rosner David, Ph.D., ATR-BC, LCAT
 (Art therapist registered/board certified/licensed)
Director, Therapeutic Arts, Bellevue Hospital Center


Released October 2008
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
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