As patients at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont know, there is more to cancer treatment than medical procedures. Cancer Wellness offers complimentary programs to Piedmont patients and anyone in the community affected by cancer. One of those classes is Expressive Arts.
“Art therapy is about using art materials to express yourself,” says Edna Bacon, ATR, an expressive arts facilitator at Cancer Wellness.
The physical and mental benefits
There are two schools of thought on art therapy, says Bacon.
“One is that doing the art itself is therapeutic. If you’ve ever done something you love to do, you kind of get lost in the process,” she says. “The other is symbolic speech and often the images can give people words where they didn’t have words before.
For people affected by cancer, art can give them a way to talk about their feelings. It can also serve as a meditative experience because it allows them to focus on a project and think about something other than their diagnosis.
“It is said that this can affect the immune system in a positive way,” she says.
What to expect in a class
An art background is not required for expressive arts classes.
“A sense of curiosity, adventure, and a willingness to jump in and try new things is a good thing,” says Bacon. “It’s not about whether you’re a trained artist or not.”
Cancer Wellness art classes utilize a wide range of materials, from paint to random objects to magazine clippings.
“What some people may call junk can become lovely in the art process,” she says.
One of the biggest benefits for cancer patients is that art gives them an opportunity to make their own choices – and there is no right or wrong choice.
“Sometimes in cancer treatment, you don’t have a lot of choices,” she explains. “Making things doesn’t necessarily mean you sit down, start with an idea and carry through. Sometimes it’s just about playing with materials and seeing what evolves. That oftentimes has great meaning for people. They’re really surprised about what comes out of it and how it relates to their life at that moment.”