by Kayla Blanche Tse, LMFT
What are the benefits of art therapy for healing cancer and chronic illnesses?
Cancer and chronic illnesses bring physical and emotional challenges that begin at diagnosis and continue throughout treatment and beyond. These life-challenging experiences bring forth a wide-range of fluctuating emotions. Common feelings are fear, anxiety, anger, hopelessness, grief, depression, loss-of-control, guilt, low self-esteem, and body-image issues. Such feelings are not easily expressed verbally. Art therapy is a non-verbal form of communication that accesses part of the brain not easily reached through talk therapy alone. It provides welcome expression and relief, while creating opportunities to process heavy emotions. Art Therapy is a a holistic approach to cancer care, treating the whole mind-body-spirit versus focusing on the emotional or physical symptoms. It is a welcome layer of emotional support, increasing hope and building self-esteem from the creative process itself.
During an art therapy session, art is created as a way to increase self-awareness and including a sense of control that is so quickly lost when facing a chronic illness. It allows the expression of complicated emotions. With the gentle support and guidance of an art therapist, one can develop effective ways to cope with symptoms, high-levels of stress, and opening the often feared discussion of life and our mortality.
How do I know if art therapy is right for me?
Art therapy is a safe and enjoyable way to relax and create hope. No art experience is needed since the creative process is ultimately the focus, not the finished art product. Art therapy is about the process of creative expression, processing emerging emotions with the art therapist, and the release of long-held feelings. These experiences with an art therapist influence the mind-body-spirit connection that is considered essential to healing and well-being during treatment.
What can I expect?
The art therapist works with you, suggesting an art therapy “directive” or instruction, that is suited to your situation, physical capabilities, and healing goals. The art therapist has intimate knowledge of how certain art materials are more appropriate for different situations and individuals. There is a wide array of artistic media, such as drawing, painting, magazine images collage, clay, or mixed-media.