Rebecca 19-Year-Old 'Childlike' Patient

Topics: Music Therapy

A 19-year-old woman named Rebecca was referred to Dr. Sack’s clinic for treatment purposes. She was ‘just like a child in some ways, as stated by her grandmother. She could not find her directions, use a key, had left/right confusion, wear shoes or gloves the correct way or side, and wear clothes in the right way. Rebecca would sometimes notice her mistakes and fidget with them for hours or fail to notice them at all. Overall, she was clumsy and ill-coordinated.

Her average IQ score was 60 or less (Sacks, 1998, p.178). Sacks (1998) found that above all that, at some deeper level, she was a calm, composed, and spiritually complete person who was equal to all others. She had a deep love for stories, poetries, nature, her church, and religion. Metaphors, figures of speech, and striking similitudes would come naturally to her (Sachs, 1998, p. 179). Rebecca insists on joining the theatre and dropping other classes and workshops. This choice can be justified as “madness” is appreciated in the theatre because it can help for innovation by going outside the box (Orjasaeter & Ottar, 2017).

Sachs (1998) saw all her strengths and powers eventually, which his tests and evaluations failed to show. He also noticed that joining the theatre did very well for her and no one could tell that she had gross-perceptual and Spatio-temporal problems when she was on stage. An occupational therapist would have recommended Rebecca continue with theatre. It was not only meaningful and important to her, but it also provided art therapy benefits to her (as interpreted by Sack, 1998, p.

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Arts therapies are used for patients with psychiatric and psychosomatic illnesses in in-patient, out-patient and rehabilitative institutions (Fenner, Abdelazim, Bräuninger, Strehlow, & Seifert, 2017). Fenner et al. (2017) considered arts therapies (as cited in Dannecker, 2006) as techniques of music therapy, dance movement therapy (DMT), theatre therapy, and poetic therapy which are used for maintaining and restoring mental health. Art therapists have been developing and implementing frameworks for a wide group of clients who suffer from various kinds of trauma and psychiatric disorders (Fenner et al., 2017). Rebecca’s grandmother, who she loved dearly, had passed away which devastated her (Sacks, 1998, p.182). This might have caused some trauma for her. Fenner et al. (2017) stated that these therapies are proven to be an effective approach for improving social function and reducing negative psychotic symptoms and the effect caused due to anger. A review by Torrissen & Stickley (2018) states that participants from a study have increased their confidence to relate to others through their participation in the theatre (as cited in Moreno, 1953, p. 336). They also admit to having a better self-image and believe that the theatre allowed them to redefine themselves positively and healthily. Thus their social and functional being has been improved. As proven by various studies, art therapy has beneficial effects for patients like Rebecca. Any Occupational therapist, who believes in ‘evidence-based practice’ shall provide opportunities for her for engaging and participate in theatre, dance, or other forms of art.


  1. Dannecker, K. (2006). Psyche and aesthetics: The transformations of art therapy. Berlin, Germany: Medical Scientific Publishing Company.
  2. Fenner P., Abdelazim R. S., Bräuninger I., Strehlow G., & Seifert K. (2017). Provision of arts therapies for people with severe mental illness: Current opinion in psychiatry, 30 (4), 306-311. DOI: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000338
  3. Moreno, J.L. (1953). Who shall survive? Foundations of sociometry, group psychotherapy, and sociodrama. Human Organization, 12 (3), 336.
  4. Orjasaeter, K. B, Ottar, N. (2017). Acting out: Enabling meaningful participation among people with long-term mental health problems in a music and theater workshop. Qualitative Health Research, 27 (11), 1600-1613. DOI: 10.1177/1049732316679954 Sacks, O. (1998).
  5. Rebecca. The man who mistook his wife for a hat and other clinical tales (pp.178-185). New York, NY.
  6. Simon & Schuster Torrissen, W., Stickley, T. (2018). Participatory theatre and mental health recovery: A narrative inquiry. Perspectives in Public Health, 138 (1), 47-54. DOI: 10.1177/1757913917723944

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