But what about when that disability also leads to mental health problems? How does a person cope with the mental trauma that sudden disability can bring about?
According to art therapist Dalal Al Sindi: ‘Such an event, whether it be through a car crash, stroke or something else that can put a person in the position of being unable to care for themselves, or even do very much for themselves at all, can be absolutely terrifying.
‘One of my patients was a father of three in his early 40s who went, in a matter of minutes through a car crash, from being a very capable man, providing for his family and enjoying his everyday life to being quadriplegic. Imagine how scary that must be!’
Bahraini Dalal, 29, studied for a degree in fine arts in the UK but, deciding that she wanted to do something more, she spoke to her college advisor, who suggested art therapy.
‘I was reading philosophy and psychology but, to be honest, until then I’d never even heard of art therapy but once I started to do some research I realised it was a way to give back through art and was just what I was looking for,’ she said.
A two-year intensive masters followed which included working with low-functioning autistic adults and with the UK National Health Service as part of the Community Mental Health Service – learning how to link her arts background with psychology to help patients express themselves.
Dalal returned to the Middle East in 2007 to work at a rehabilitation hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, supervised by Dr Awad Al Yami who’s known for his work with former terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
She said: ‘I learned a lot there working with people with spinal chord and brain injury patients but also with cancer sufferers and people with physical disabilities using art therapy to help them handle their psychological issues.
‘To return to the example of the patient I gave above, when I first started working with this man he was extremely depressed, felt that his purpose in life had been taken away and he was also a very religious person so he wasn’t keen on the drawing aspect of the therapy.
‘He was initially very rude and hostile both to me and to the other therapists but I just kept at it, putting the pen in his hand and pushing him to draw at least something. At first it was just a scribble, but even that was helping his motor skills, and eventually he was able to draw stuff that opened the path for him to talk about how angry and afraid he was feeling. It took more than four months of sessions before he was ready to open up but we got there in the end.’
She’s also successfully used art therapy for both adults and children who are on the autistic spectrum and may find language difficult, for them it can be easier to communicate through drawing rather than words. ‘Art and drawing come naturally to all of us,’ says Dalal. ‘Give a child a pencil and he will instinctively start to draw, even if it’s only a scribble, whereas words have to be learned and some people learn differently so art is an easier way for them to express themselves.’
Now Dalal is back in Bahrain with a mission to make art therapy more accessible. ‘Therapy as a whole is not very well accepted in this region,’ she says. ‘People think “if you need therapy you must be mad” but, because this involves art and the Arab world has such a strong connection with art, it’s gradually becoming more accepted.’
She’s about to set up in practice as the Bahrain Arts Therapy Centre as part of the Women’s Entrepreneur Complex in A’ali which is part of an initiative from Tamkeen and the Economic Development Board. And, though currently she only deals with private clients, she hopes that, in time, art therapy will start to attract medical referrals as is the case elsewhere in the region. Dalal can be contacted on (33 486 060).