How Art Therapy is Helping Cancer Patients

When I was three years old, my little sister, who was 11 months old, was diagnosed with a Stage III Wilms’ Tumor. Wilms’ Tumors are kidney cancer and, luckily, have a high remission rate when caught early enough. My sister, Grace, was in treatment for just over a year. She turned one and two in the hospital. She went through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and, ultimately, surgery to remove one of her kidneys and the tumors. Throughout her treatment, she and I would do art therapy together. We still have our paintings, sculptures, and drawings from it and from her yearly checkups. Art therapy helped Grace and our family have something positive to remember from that scary time.
Art therapy is being used more and more to help with all kinds of issues such as cancer, addiction, mental illnesses, disabilities, and Alzheimer’s. Art therapy is the use of artistic methods to treat psychological disorders and enhance a patient’s mental health (Cherry 2019). It is used as an approach to mental health that utilizes the process of creating art to improve mental, physical, and emotional wellness. Techniques used in art therapy are drawing, painting, coloring, sculpting, and collage-making. As patients create their art, they analyze what they create, how it makes them feel, and look for themes and conflicts that may be affecting their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Some research suggests that the presence of art and the act of creating it can play a boosting mental health (Cherry 2019). Art therapy helps patient’s with self-discovery, self-esteem, emotional release, and stress-relief (Guest Author 2018). Self-discovery helps patients acknowledge and recognize feelings that have been lurking in their subconscious. Art therapy helps with self-esteem because the process provides feelings of self-accomplishment, which can be very valuable for cancer and Alzheimer’s patients. It provides an outlet for expressing and releasing emotions and fear, which helps manage stress and anxiety (Guest Author 2018). Art therapy has many benefits and can be widely used for all kinds of emotional and physical issues.
It is really helpful for cancer patients and their families. According to research done by the Cleveland Clinic, art therapy helps those with cancer express themselves and cope with the stress and anxiety of going through treatment. It allows the patients to have choice and control, which can help decrease anxiety and promote relaxation. It also helps decrease pain and helps the patients through their rehabilitation. This is because when patients go through an event like cancer, they have no control over their body, how their body reacts to the treatment, or whether or not the cancer will go away, but art therapy provides them with an outlet to express those emotions and have an area of their lives they can control. For those patients who are willing to approach the materials with a sense of play and exploration, art therapy provides an opportunity to experience joy and growth despite difficult circumstances. It also provides families with something positive to do together during stressful times, like my sister and me. Looking back, it’s really comforting to know that my sister and I have those fun, bonding memories in spite of the situation. Art therapy is a great tool that helps cancer patients, their families, and many other people with many other issues (Cancer Care 2017).

Works Cited
Cancer Care. 2017. How Art Therapy Eases Stress if You Have Cancer. Health Essentials From Cleveland Clinic.
Cherry K. 2019. How Art Therapy is Used to Help People Heal. Verywell Mind.
Guest Author. 2018. Creativity and Recovery: The Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy. Resources to Recover.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Aubrey Blanchard says:

    Hey Abby,
    I’m so sorry to hear about the diagnosis of your younger sister. I can’t imagine what a scary time it must have been for you and your family. I am so glad that art therapy offered you and your sister some light in such a dark time. I also did a blog post about art therapy and its effects on traumatic brain injuries and depression. While you most likely did art therapy with your sister to help her, I think it probably helped you and your mental health just as much. The great thing about art therapy is that anyone can do it, no matter how young or old.

  2. Emily Wang says:

    Hi Abby! I am so sorry to hear about what you and your family experienced. Fighting cancer is not easy by any means, and, like Aubrey mentioned, I can only imagine what you and your family went through. However, it is amazing to hear how art therapy has personally helped you and your family through those tough times! I agree that art allows an outlet for people to express themselves, especially when words cannot. It’s also really cool to see it from a perspective of control, since art does allow you to turn your creativity and imagination into something tangible and memorable.

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