I have had many people diagnosed with different types of cancer and actively engaged with cancer treatments attend individual and group art therapy sessions and workshops over the years. I have also been involved with group and community events at our local cancer center. Time and time again, I have seen patients benefit greatly from the power of creative expression.
People often attend sessions or groups saying, “I just needed a creative outlet for what I am going through”, or “I’m totally terrified of my feelings. I am trying so hard to be strong and I am afraid what might happen if I allow myself feel vulnerable”. Many clients state up front that they feel they have little or no artistic ability but that they are drawn to learn more about creative expression.
Art therapy is not about artistic talent, it is about the process of creative self-expression. Individuals are encouraged to enter into the creative process with a sense of wonder, play, and curiosity. When creating art we are allowing ourselves a safe space to honor our vulnerabilities, face the parts of ourselves we would rather dis-own, and create emotional awareness and release.
Art therapy helps cancer patients learn how to express and understand their own personal healing journey. While creating art, individuals are able to momentarily take their focus of their illness and focus on the joy of the creative process and positive life experiences. The simple process of creating art has also been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Individuals are also able to share their very personal experiences visually with others where there were no words to fully explain before. The act of creating also provides a physical release as well as a sense of control with what is being created during a time where things may feel out of control.
There is quite a bit of research and many well-written articles on the numerous ways that art therapy benefits cancer patients. In this recent article, “The Benefits of Art Therapy for Cancer Patients”, the authors share valuable information on ways that art is being used to help patients suffering from mesothelioma and other cancers cope with their diagnoses. Click here for more information about mesothelioma.
Ways to begin your creative healing journey on your own:
Get yourself a blank journal to work in daily/weekly as well as some simple drawing/collaging materials
Create daily images of how you are feeling, and then create daily images of the cells in your body healing
Always start with how you are feeling, and end with how you would like to be feeling
Spend time with what comes out in your images, possibly do some free writing
Spend extra time attuning yourself to your healing images, imagine feeling the healing shifts in your body
What if I want to work with an art therapist individually, in a group, or attend a workshop?
Many hospitals offer art therapy for patients with cancer and their families. Ask your doctor or nurses if your hospital offers an art therapy program or if they may be able to refer you to a local art therapist. You may also visit the Art Therapy Credentialing Board to see who may be a credentialed art therapist in your area.