Thursday, March 19, 2015

Arts & Crafts & Healing

A white crochet lace motif
Engagement in a detailed craft is is one method
of controlled avoidance. 

When people focus on a craft, when people focus on creation, people overcome grief.

Grief is an emotional reaction to a devastating loss.  People who are grieving often feel helplessness, anguish, loneliness, or even guilt. These feelings make it difficult for the grieving person to function, to complete day-to-day tasks like cooking, bathing, or paying bills.

Research supports that one way to ease the anguish associated with a devastating loss is controlled avoidance.

Taking a Time Out

J. Shep Jeffreys writes, in a chapter called "Controlled Avoidance in the Management of Grief," that at times, people may need help managing and controlling the grieving process in order to function, in order to complete necessary daily activities.  Those who are grieving may need help planning these "time outs," or they may simply need permission to give themselves a break from actively grieving (2012, pg. 155).  He refers to these breaks from active grieving as controlled avoidance.

One of the controlled avoidance activities Jeffreys lists as appropriate for these "time outs" is crafts.

Engagement in Craft Activities

Jeffreys is not the only researcher who advocates crafts and creative activities as a potentially effective therapy.

Sue Griffiths, Principal Lecturer with the Division of Occupational Therapy at The University of Northampton finds there may be "potential health gains from using creative activities" in mental health therapies.  (Griffiths, 2008, para. 4).  One such specific example of beneficial creative activity comes from U.S. military veteran John Smelser. He began completing craft kits, provided by Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV),  after seeking treatment for alcoholism triggered by grief ("Working on Arts & Crafts Helps This Veteran Cope with Grief," 2013, para. 2).  After several years, he has found that completing craft kits has helped him heal in a "myriad" of ways (para. 5).

Furthermore, a study published in 2009 by The Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy also supports the claim that crafts can be used as effective "time outs" from active grieving.   Specifically, the researcher states that an analysis of the study reveals the following:

Craft can be [useful] in achieving therapeutic changes in following areas: physiology (heart rate, respiration etc.), psychophysiology (pain, level of consciousness etc.), sensomotory development (internalization of visual, tactile and kinaesthetic functions, fine motor coordination etc.), perception (discrimination of differences etc.), cognition (learning skills,  knowledge, attitudes, short and long-term retention etc.), behaviour (activity level, activity level, safety, accuracy etc.), craft related skills (composing, craft techniques, using equipments and materials etc.), emotions (anxiety, depression, motivation, imagery etc.), communication (verbal and nonverbal communication, expressive skills etc.), interpersonal (role behaviours, relationship patterns, sensitivity etc.) and creativity (inventiveness, artistry etc). (Pollanen, pg. 44)

The benefits are shown to be numerous, and they relate both directly and indirectly to healing after experiencing a devastating loss.  That is, this study also supports that crafts help those who are grieving overcome their grief.


Although more specific and more numerous studies have yet to be conducted, preliminary and related studies show that crafts can and do aid in the healing process.  Most notably, crafts can be used when a grieving person needs a "time out" from actively grieving, or needs permission to engage in controlled avoidance of active grieving processes.

Want to read more about grief and healing?  Try

Grief and the Holiday Season
Using the Nice Dishes
Learn to Crochet for Stress Relief

Ready to learn to crochet?  Take my complete online crochet course for beginners on Udemy for only $10.00!

Learn to create four different patternless projects and start crocheting for stress relief.  Crochet does a body good!


  • Griffiths, S. (2008). The experience of creative activity as a treatment medium. Retrieved from
  • Jeffreys, J. S. (2012). Controlled Avoidance in the Management of Grief. Techniques of Grief Therapy: Creative Practices for Counseling the Bereaved (Series in Death, Dying, and Bereavement). Neimeyer, R. A. (ed.) New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Pollanen, S. (2009). Craft as context in therapeutic change.  The Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy. XLI (2). pp. 43-47.
  • Working on Arts & Crafts Helps This Veteran Cope with Grief. (2013, July 17). PR Newswire. Retrieved from lirn84858&it=r&p=PPCJ&sw=w&asid=a74e1306abbaf9a4a8e2ec3435da19ad

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Contact the author for permission to republish.

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