The Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute has a special art therapist, who provides art therapy sessions to patients with cancer and blood disorders. The art therapist can do a one-time session art project with a patient or have multiple sessions depending on how long the patient stays on the unit. Art therapy has been proven to show reduced stress and anxiety in children and allows them to address some of their fears and concerns that they can’t articulate or aren’t ready to share.
Art therapy uses the creative process of art-making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of patients. It provides them a way to come to terms with emotional conflicts, increase self-awareness and express unspoken and often unconscious concerns about their illness and their lives.
Research has shown that cancer patients experience many psychosocial and psychological stressors when dealing with the disease and its difficult treatment. Art is a powerful tool that can identify these stressors, empower the young patient in the fight against cancer and offer a complimentary treatment method to relieve symptoms and gain insights into thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Benefits of Art Therapy
When a child undergoes cancer treatment, she/he may not be able to verbally articulate their fears and hopes. Due to their young age and intense fears, they are unable to express or process verbally many psychological and physical issues the cancer has caused. The pediatric cancer patient is able to use the art as a creative outlet for his/her repressed emotions, confusing feelings states, wishes and fantasies about the cancer experience that they are unable to verbally express.
Our Art Therapy Program is focused on inpatient hematology/oncology patients. Individual and group art therapy sessions are provided at bedside, in the playroom and the outpatient setting as well.
Art therapy provides a feeling of autonomy and control to a patient diagnosed with cancer or serious blood disorder. The patient is provided with a variety of art materials and is free to choose what she or he would like to create. Other ways that art therapy enhances the overall patient experience includes:
- Art predates verbal communication, thus is an excellent expression for children with cancer
- Builds a sense of competence and control in an otherwise confusing situation
- Encourages interaction between patients, which leads to opportunities for mutual support
- and friendship
- Encourages symbolic and pictorial representations of physical and emotional states
- Expresses expectation of hopes and fears of cancer and its treatment
- Facilitates coping through diversion and empowerment
- Invites expression of difficult feelings, such as fears, angers and hope
- Provides a safe, non-threatening place and a supportive person on whom to project their feelings about their illness
- When creating art, a permanent image is formed. The artwork remains the same over time and can be revisited by the patient with the guidance of the therapist. The insight gained, can then be shared within the treatment team