The emotional impact of cancer and cancer treatment is often underestimated. Cancer patients and their families endure powerful emotions and pressure and if not properly dealt these can result in increased levels of pain, depression and anxiety.
Artistic Therapy doesn’t offer a cure for cancer but it can be an effective complimentary therapy in addition to medical treatment, helping the patient to reduce their stress, cope with their emotions whilst increasing the level of vitality and overall sense of wellbeing.
Artistic Therapy offers an environment where cancer patients are invited to express and explore their experiences and feelings such as anger, fear and anxiety in a non-judgemental and non-threatening way with the aim to improve their quality of life. Some adults and children find it easier to express difficult emotions and painful times through being creative rather than trying to talk things through.
Artistic Therapy is used for several common issues:
Anxiety, stress, depression, nausea, pain, grief, body image, self confidence, lack of vitality, shortness of breath, difficulty in managing emotions and life.
Studies into the effectiveness of Artistic Therapy for cancer patients.
A few published studies have looked at the use of art therapy in people with cancer. One study, published in 2003 in the Oncology Nursing Forum Journal, examined how art had helped survivors of breast cancer express feelings about their illness. This study said that ‘art can capture the most intimate and personal aspects of the cancer experience’.
ScienceDaily (Jan. 2, 2006) — A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that art therapy can reduce a broad spectrum of symptoms related to pain and anxiety in cancer patients.
Judith Paice, PhD, RN, director, Cancer Pain Program, Northwestern Memorial HospitalCancer: “Patients are increasingly turning to alternative and complementary therapies to reduce symptoms, improve quality of life and boost their ability to cope with stress,"
“Artistic Therapy provides a distraction that allows patients to focus on something positive instead of their health for a time, and it also gives patients something they can control."
"Art provides a vehicle for expression. It may be preferential to some cancer patients who may be uncomfortable with conventional psychotherapy or those who find verbal expression difficult."
What can you expect from your sessions?
In your first consultation we will meet in my practice space where you have the opportunity to see if you feel good there, if you can connect with me as your therapist and feel safe to discuss the concerns and challenges you are currently facing.
Every session lasts 50 minutes and will be arranged on a weekly basis and sometimes more frequently depending on your situation.
I believe that the therapy space should be a positive space where you can feel safe, comfortable and creative. During each session a range of art materials are presented and ready for you to use. At the beginning and maybe for a few times this may feel intimidating and you may not know how to get in touch with your creative side or maybe afraid to make a start. This is a very common reaction and I will be next to you guiding you through your artistic and personal development. The media you will work with can include painting, drawing, clay modeling, collage making, and mixed media work. You won’t need any experience in any of these techniques; you will be guided step by step through this artistic process.
The therapy may not always be a relaxing and creative time, it may as well bring up uncomfortable and difficult feelings. This can be challenging to stay with but is common in therapy and the safe non-judgmental space offers you the opportunity to express these feelings and explore them further.
Besides art making you may also work with visualisations and meditation to support your recovery process.
Support for family of cancer patients
Other family members of cancer patients, partners and children may find great comfort and support in artistic therapy.
Cancer is an illness that offers challenges not only for the cancer patient but the close family and friends may also be under a lot of pressure, learning to deal with anxiety, change, difficult emotions and grief.
Life won’t be the same anymore and accepting this is very difficult but very important. Cancer doesn’t need to be a terminal illness but the medical treatments and emotional impact can be incredibly difficult for the whole family.
Cancer can put a lot of pressure onto a relationship. Also children won’t always be able to find ways to express their fears and worries or have difficulty understanding what is happening. Artistic therapy can offer a non-judgemental and safe space where, when words can’t be found, art can communicate ones deepest feelings.
I offer specific courses for clients of the LOC (London Oncology Centre), please check with the team of their living well programme or contact me for more information.