Visual art therapy

Visual art therapy helps people express feelings and facts that are from their standing too difficult to talk about them.

Art can be a refuge from the intense emotions associated with illness. There are no limits to the imagination in finding creative ways of expressing grief. In particular, molding clay can be a powerful way to help people express these feelings through tactile involvement at a somatic level, as well as to facilitate verbal communication and cathartic release and reveal unconscious materials and symbols that cannot be expressed through words.

Visual art therapy helps people express feelings and facts that are from their standing too difficult to talk about them.

Women taking part in a qualitative study focusing on cancer described ongoing cancer-related difficulties such as fear for the future, pain, sleeplessness, role loss, activity restriction, reduced self-confidence, and altered social relationships. Engaging in different types of visual art (textiles, card making, collage, pottery, watercolor, acrylics) helped these women in 4 major ways:

  1. It helped them focus on positive life experiences, relieving their ongoing preoccupation with cancer.
  2. It enhanced their self-worth and identity by providing them with opportunities to demonstrate continuity, challenge, and achievement.
  3. It enabled them to maintain a social identity that resisted being defined by cancer.
  4. It allowed them to express their feelings in a symbolic manner, especially during chemotherapy.

Two other visual arts studies have focused on the experience of women with cancer. In a quantitative trial of mindfulness art therapy targeted toward women with cancer, Monti et al. found that those who engaged in art making demonstrated statistically significant decreases in symptoms of physical and emotional distress during treatment. In addition to the introduction of self-care through guided imagery, the art-making therapy involved the women drawing complete pictures of themselves and engaging in yoga and meditation. The relaxation and symptom reduction produced by creative expression opened pathways to emotional healing.

The psychological effects of breast cancer, in particular, may include adjustment disorders, depression, and anxiety, and these symptoms in turn may generate feelings of fear, anger, guilt, and emotional repression.

Medical professionals are beginning to recognize the role that creative arts play in the healing process; increasingly, arts in medicine programs are emerging throughout the United States and worldwide.

Participation in an arts-in-medicine program was related to improved quality-of-life measures, and there were encouraging trends in terms of improvements in depression and certain laboratory and hemodialysis parameters.

In another study, the specific aim was to determine the effects of a 1-hour art therapy session on pain and other symptoms common to adult cancer inpatients.. There were statistically significant reductions in 8 of the 9 symptoms measured by the Edmonton scale, including the global distress score, as well as significant improvements in most of the domains measured by the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Index. Patients overwhelmingly expressed comfort with the process and a desire to continue with therapy. This study provides initial evidence of the efficacy of art therapy in reducing a broad spectrum of symptoms among cancer inpatients.


Caregivers & Visual art theraphy

Walsh et al. conducted a pretest–posttest quasi-experimental study to test the efficacy of a creative arts intervention with 40 family caregivers of patients with cancer.

Participation in the creative arts intervention was the independent variable, and stress, anxiety, and emotions were the dependent variables.

The 6-month study was implemented at a regional cancer treatment center.

The creative arts intervention consisted of several creative arts activities designed for bedside delivery.

The creative arts intervention promoted short-term well-being in this sample of family caregivers. Caregivers reported significantly reduced stress, decreased anxiety, and increased positive emotions after taking part in the intervention. They also reported increases in positive communications with cancer patients and health care providers.


Caregivers & Visual art theraphy
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