Among the many wonderful services and workshops the Cancer Center offers to its clients is art therapy. Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Through engagement with art materials such as paint, chalk, oil pastels, collage and clay, the group participants are encouraged to express feelings related to their illness. Art offers a non-threatening and creative means of self-expression. Sometimes it can be difficult to verbally communicate feelings. Having an alternative means of self-expression, and having the art product as a visual reference, can assist clients in coming to a greater acceptance and understanding of the self. Creating artwork within a group context offers the clients the opportunity to find support and recognition from one another.
Art therapy helps cancer patients to improve their quality of life, and to discover inner strengths that can assist them in handling recurring stressors related to their illness. Art can be enjoyable and relaxing, offering relief from anxiety as clients become immersed in their artistic process. Clients’ participation in art therapy sessions at the Cancer Center say how much they enjoy using art materials, including those who claim that they are not artistic. More importantly, the clients appreciate the emotional support and various perspectives of their fellow group members.
Some days, cancer patients come in feeling sad, angry, or depressed, and they seem ashamed of their feelings. They may hide these feelings from family members so as not to burden them with the weight of their emotions. Art therapy sessions provide a safe, non-judgmental space where clients can vent their feelings without feeling guilty. They learn that it is better to express rather than suppress emotions. Often, other group members will jump in to support the one in need of comfort. Speaking with optimistic group members who are determined to battle cancer is inspiring both to clients and therapists alike.
Sometimes progress is evident within a single art therapy session. The artwork serves as visual testimony to the progress. In a recent session, one group member began creating an image in pencil that she described as a “bad” picture, because it related to some of her negative emotions. She shared some of her fears during a particularly hard time in her life. When another group member offered her words of encouragement, she began to experiment with other art materials. Within the same session she created a beautiful picture of flowers using watercolor paints. Her second picture was colorful and full of life, filled with images that symbolized growth. She left the session with renewed enthusiasm, stating that she looked forward to meeting again next time!