Crafts For Therapy

Written by Shirley Parker
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When we are young and not very outwardly focused, we may make jokes about taking basket weaving in order to get the required number of credits in our college classes. On some subconscious level, we know that basket weaving is a useful activity. It’s even a lifesaver in many nations, where they literally still have to make everything they need. But until we listen to an occupational therapist, for example, explain how basket weaving benefits her patients, we don’t really understand its value in a high tech society.

The truth is we need crafts to heal us, to rehabilitate us, and to prevent us from falling ill in the first place. As residents of the United States, we are particularly bad about not taking time off from hectic, demanding work environments to do something for ourselves. Contrary to popular opinion, we weren’t put on earth so our bosses could buy Porsches and take exotic vacations. Sometimes, we allow their misnamed Protestant work ethic to kill us; or we collapse from strokes or heart attacks, which is actually worse than dying outright, given their long-term effects.

We can learn a lot from other cultures, where vacations are not only encouraged, but workers don’t have to worry about losing their jobs while they’re away. But if we’ve already suffered a breakdown of some sort, we’ll probably need a variety of therapies to fight our way back. Any craft that forces us to slow down and concentrate, instead of multi-tasking all the time, is calming and healing. When brain cells, eyes, and hands have to relearn how to work together, safe crafts are the way back to feeling competent again.

Aspects of Therapy

Obtaining aids to living, such as walkers and extender tools to help us reach things, relieves the frustration of not being able to get up and around. Physical therapy may involve water therapy, so muscles and joints can be exercised with less strain and discomfort. Special exercise equipment, including stationary hand bikes and sports balls rebuild our strength.

Meeting with other cancer or stroke or mental illness patients may help us by sharing stories, or we may prefer to go it alone, not being the “touchy-feely” type. Always, medical personnel recommend some sort of quiet activity. If we’re not able to garden, maybe we can build a birdhouse. If we can’t handle fine needlework, maybe we can hook rugs with striking designs in them. Poetry can be a channel for our inner fears and hopes, and help other people at the same time.

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