Group Art Therapy Program for Women Living with Breast Cancer

Katherine Laux, Virginia Lee, Sarkis Meterissian, Gwynneth Gorman, Sharon Wexler

Abstract


Background/Objective: A 9-week group art therapy program for women living with breast cancer is a new initiative to bring comprehensive cancer care to oncology patients and caregivers at our host institution, a major university health center. The development of this program was supported by a mixed-methods research study which explored the impact of art therapy on the psychosocial needs of women in treatment for breast cancer. Over 60 women were recruited for this study (control and intervention groups). The art therapy program offers tangible meaning-making opportunities through art-making in a therapeutic frame. Participants incorporated their artworks in group discussions and individual reflections of how they benefited from art-making.

Methods: Sources of data include the artwork and group discussions, an upcoming exhibit, narrative-based interviews, and quantitative questionnaires. The data will be analyzed qualitatively to elicit the major themes that the participants addressed in their art-making and group experiences, and in their narratives about their journey with cancer as a whole.

Results: The program’s 9 weekly topics will be presented and the qualitative results will be discussed. The topics include addressing a changing mind/body, processing challenging emotions / thoughts / relationships, highlighting one’s strengths and capabilities, building talismans and amulets (protection), and increasing one’s self-awareness of the realities of living with cancer. Some of the major themes from a preliminary data analysis include the development of one’s personal artistic language/symbolism; a place just for me; discovering and building connections; at a crossroads; and transformations.

Conclusion: This study highlights the importance and benefit of complementary therapies such as art therapy. We propose that creative arts therapies should be considered as an important contributor to the provision of whole person care in oncology clinics and wellness centres. The implications of group art therapy will be discussed in light of its feasibility in routine cancer care.


Keywords


art therapy; breast cancer

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ISSN: 2291-918X