A Comprehensive Overview of How Art Therapy has Facilitated Healing in the Lives of Cancer Patients

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Westlake, Linda
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
The purpose of this research proposal is to examine how art therapy is being used to improve the lives of people with cancer. There have been many articles by art therapists and other professionals discussing this subject but none that provided an overview and analysis of the types of art therapy available for cancer patients and the ways it has been found helpful. The methods which will be employed to answer the research question are a literature review and personal communication with art therapists involved in providing art therapy for cancer patients. The conceptual framework this researcher utilized was categorizing these art therapy interventions into four basic approaches. These include: physically based interventions, emotionally based interventions, spiritually based interventions, and art therapy interventions aimed at addressing social issues. While categorizing art therapy interventions into four separate types seems artificial, it was found helpful in examining the different areas in which art therapy may activate change. In conclusion, the art therapy interventions most often used with cancer patients were emotionally based and spiritually based both in the literature review and in the personal communications. While these may be the most common interventions, art therapy has the potential to effect the individual’s physical and social well being regardless of the primary goal the therapist had in mind. Physically and socially based approaches are less commonly employed.