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Learn more about this unique therapy that provides benefits to cancer patients.

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Cancer treatment can take over patients’ lives. One means of coping with the complex emotions and experiences following a cancer diagnosis may be found in an unexpected place: art therapy.

In the hands of a cancer patient, a paint brush can do wonders. Art can be therapeutic and the act of creating can ease pain and anxiety. People may be able to express emotions, concerns and experiences through art in a way they can’t do with the spoken word.

Engaging in art and creating often gives cancer patients back a sense of control and choice. It gives them a chance to focus on themselves and their abilities or to reframe their experience through imagery. Art therapy has been shown to help patients reduce stress, combat depression, ease pain, increase energy and improve overall well-being.

“I am a firm believer in the healing power of the arts. Whether it is painting, music therapy or just a good laugh, the arts heal the body and mind. Stimulating the creative side of your mind will help relieve the stress and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis. I actually have original artwork from my children and family members in my exam rooms that patients find comforting and relaxing. The paintings take away the sterile environment that is found in most exam rooms.”

-Everett J. Bonner, Jr., MD, FACS, Breast Surgery, General Surgery

Art therapy programs are usually open to anyone currently being treated for cancer, as well as to those who have completed treatment. People dealing with any type of cancer can participate and many groups also welcome caregivers and supporters. You don’t have to be an artist, or even have any artistic ability, to benefit from art therapy. The end result is not as important as the process of creating.

In addition to the benefits realized through expression and creativity, organized art therapy groups provide an opportunity for people in similar situations to come together. Like other support groups, participants can meet others who understand what they’re going through and can talk about things they may not feel comfortable talking about with others. Or participants can just immerse themselves in the art itself and use the time as a chance to not have to talk about cancer.

Even if you don’t join an organized art therapy class, you may find that creating art on your own is a therapeutic experience. It can help you relax, focus or give you an escape from the daily pressures of life.

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Date Last Reviewed: December 10, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Erica Bucci, ATR-BC, LPC, board-certified art therapist

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