Art Therapy Offers Support for Cancer Patients Through Expression

We can all likely remember the freeing fun we had coloring pictures, painting and making creative artwork as children. The soothing nature of art is not just for recreation — art therapy is now being used as a real option in the fight against cancer.

A cancer diagnosis is accompanied by an often-overwhelming amount of stress: anxiety about one’s future, worries over medical bills and concerns about day-to-day logistics of managing a medical crisis. Support for cancer patients exists in many forms, with simple creative activities increasingly being sought to offer a peaceful reprieve from the pressures of a fight against cancer.

What the Research Says

There is a wealth of evidence that suggests the healing power of creative-arts therapies.

For instance, the National Institutes of Health conducted a study that found such therapies reduced anxiety and depression, as well as physical pain, for cancer patients. The research, which involved nearly 1,600 patients, suggested that art therapy was similar in its impact to traditional stress-reducing activities like yoga and acupuncture.

Overall, study participants who undertook art therapy reported a better quality of life than patients who did not. With a more positive outlook, patients are empowered to face their disease head on, which can have resounding results on their health.

Art Therapy in Practice

There are many options for people looking to incorporate art therapy into their treatment plans.

The American Art Therapy Association offers a comprehensive listing of more than 5,000 art therapists around the nation. People looking for services can search by their home state to read profiles of each therapist. Many states also operate their own chapter of the AATA, with more localized information for patients looking to start an art-therapy program.

The Foundation for Hospital Art is another agency that has seen the benefits of art therapy. It recently launched a 50-state tour, PaintFest America, to put paint brushes, pencils and more into the hands of cancer patients. The tour has encouraged cancer patients and survivors to collaborate on creative projects, and also showcased the works of its contributors, which itself is an esteem booster, another benefit for patients.

Art is known for its subjectivity, which makes it open and accessible to all. From painting to dance to music, art therapy can offer support for cancer patients that is simultaneously relaxing, empowering and energizing.

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