Can Art Cure You? Doctors to Prescribe Museum Visits in Pioneering Treatment

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Canadian doctors are experimenting with a new initiative combating physical and mental ailments

Courtesy: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Courtesy: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Can a visit to the art gallery provide an escape for patients, suffering a range of ailments, from diabetes to depression? An association of Canadian physicians and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts are taking that bet in an experimental new initiative, which will see doctors writing prescriptions for a trip to the museum.

‘It’s so rare in medicine that you prescribe something and you do not need to worry about all those side-effects or interactions with other medication,’ Dr Hélène Boyer, vice-president of Médecins francophones du Canada told CBC News.

Nathalie Bondil, director general and chief curator of the museum said: ‘What is most important is to have this experience which is to help them escape from their own pain […] When you enter the museum, you escape from the speed of our daily life. It’s a kind of modern cathedral.’

The pilot project, which will run for a year, operates under the belief that a museum setting might prove beneficial to a variety of conditions, from mental health to eating disorders and high blood pressure – it will be considered complementary to conventional treatment.

‘There’s more and more scientific proof that art therapy is good for your physical health. It increases our level of cortisol and our level of serotonin. We secrete hormones when we visit a museum and these hormones are responsible for our well-being,’ Boyer told the Montreal Gazette. Doctors will be able to issue up to 50 prescriptions granting entry to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for a family of four.

Although the Montreal scheme describes itself as the first of kits kind, earlier this month, the UK government unveiled a new GBP£1.8 million public health strategy in which a range of activities including art lessons could be prescribed on the National Health Service, with doctors encouraged to recommend social activities to patients suffering from loneliness, rather than offering drug-based treatments. 

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