Cancer Education

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Jan 27, 2020

The Many Benefits of Art Therapy

By Megan Roessler M. Ed., @meganroessler

art watercolorArticle contributed by Cancer Education Center staff member Jane Brandhagen

Dealing with a healthcare diagnosis and treatment plan is likely to cause unwanted emotional side effects such as fear, stress and anxiety.  Even if the disease was detected at an early stage and there is a favorable prognosis, no one welcomes this news.  Along with following one’s medical treatment plan, many have found comfort in the complementary approach of art therapy.

Art therapy is a method of using the creative process of making art to improve and enhance physical, mental and emotional well-being. There are many simple and economical artistic activities one can engage in, such as painting, drawing, collage, writing and music.  It doesn’t matter what media is chosen or a person’s artist skill level, only that one feels comfortable and engaged.  One of the reasons art therapy is helpful is because it can be used as a tool for self-expression and working through feelings; it is a way to convey emotions, hopes and concerns.  While making art, the “creative corner” of the brain takes over and may result in several benefits including:

  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Elevating mood
  • Improving relaxation
  • Increasing self-awareness, mindfulness, and well-being
  • Decreasing pain

There are several opportunities at Mayo Clinic to practice art therapy.

  • The Slaggie Family Cancer Education Center offers 10 Minute Artist where creative and simple art projects can be completed in a supportive environment.
  • Creative Renewal, an additional offering through the Slaggie Family Cancer Education Center, provides an opportunity to explore complementary medicine approaches and creative expression such as zentangles, clay, watercolor, and music.
  • The Center for Humanities in Medicine offers music performances, visual art exhibitions, and the bedside arts programs.

Although art therapy cannot treat disease itself, it has become increasingly popular.  It originated in the field of psychotherapy, but because of its beneficial effects, is now commonly incorporated in many settings such as hospitals, schools and nursing homes. Keep in mind that each person’s art is unique to his or her journey, and there should be no expectations or judgments on what is created.  Because everyone is capable of creative expression, it’s worth giving art therapy a try! Please share your experience and how the arts have impacted your journey.

If you'd like to share with others how art has impacted your journey, talk with others in a discussion called Art for Healing on Mayo Clinic Connect.

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