Art Therapy – having fun after cancer

Many hospitals and support centres offer art classes as therapy

 

From dabblers to artists, producing something creative is proven to be beneficial for survivors.  Recently the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts, Health and Wellbeing announced “Arts on prescription help people to overcome physical pain, playing a vital role in recovery”.

The APPG says expressing feelings with a trained therapist can help reduce isolation, anxiety and stress.

For some people though, talking about these feelings may be difficult. Art therapy allows you to express feelings that might be hard to put into words. It offers psychological benefits on both a surface and a deeper level.

How can art therapy help?

One of the first physicians to see the benefits of Art Therapy was the eminent cancer specialist, Professor Michael Baum.  In his book Breast Beating he describes how he met up with an art teacher offering this therapy at The Royal Marsden, and how effective he found this for his patients. He then went on to encourage setting up these classes as part of a programme for survivorship.

   Prof. Michael Baum

It can help in a range of ways, depending on your needs.

Patients use art therapy to relax and take their mind off their difficulties, or to have fun while trying something new. Others might find they wish to express or process difficult thoughts or feelings – making art might give them a sense of release, help them let something out or allow them to see things from a different perspective. Each person is different, and currently sessions at hospitals such as The Royal Marsden are tailored to suit patients’  needs.

Whenever I pass an open door where an art therapy class is in progress, all those taking part are either totally involved in what they are doing, with concentration written deep on their faces;  or the whole class is having a happy chat – either way it takes patients ‘out of themselves’ and helps the healing process.

How does it work?

At the Marsden and other hospitals, art therapy can take place individually or in groups. You do not need to be good at art or have any previous experience. The art therapist can work with you at your bedside or in the art therapy room. You can meet with the art therapist for a single session, or you and the art therapist might agree a course of sessions in a way that is suitable for your needs.

How do I access this?

Ask at your hospital, cancer support group or at a local centre run by Age UK or similar organisations.  Or ask at your Library.       It is available in many outlets, it’s just a question of asking around.

The eminent MP Sarah Wollaston says “if social prescribing were a drug, people would be outraged that doctors weren’t prescribing it”.

If you can’t find a class, tell your GP that the APPG found that after patients took classes, GP consultation rates dropped by as much as 37%.  Shown such figures, this should be an incentive to start up classes in your area.

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