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Art Therapy

art therapistArt therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental and emotional health. Art expression under the direction of a licensed art therapist is a nonverbal way to communicate thoughts, feelings, experiences and imagination. Specific positive results can include:

  • Reduced stress and tension.
  • Pain relief.
  • Relaxation.
  • Personal insight.
  • Improved mood and sense of well-being.

Anyone – adult or child, experienced artist or hesitant “non-artist” – can benefit from art therapy.

Art therapy sessions include both art-making and conversation. Patients may choose art materials such as paints, chalk, markers or clay.

  • Is Art Therapy Evidence-Based?

    There is research to support the use of art therapy under the guidance of a trained therapist for people with cancer. Art therapy has been shown to reduce pain, depression, fatigue and other distressing symptoms of both the illness and its treatment. It has also been found to strengthen positive feelings, raise overall quality of life, improve body image, and increase perceptions of general physical and mental health.

    For more information about art therapy, visit the American Art Therapy Association.

  • What Happens During an Art Therapy Session?

    Art therapy sessions include both art-making and conversation with the therapist. The individual chooses from art materials such as paints, chalk, markers and clay to make whatever they wish. The art therapist may suggest a starting point and will offer technical help as needed. While each session is unique, most people find art therapy relaxing and fun.

    Once the individual completes their art piece, they have the opportunity to talk with the therapist about the process and whatever is on their mind. Individuals may be focused on concerns about having cancer or being in the hospital, relationships, spiritual issues, body image or other areas of life. Alternatively, the individual may simply focus on relaxing and enjoying the creative process, which typically results in reduced stress, pain and anxiety

  • How Do I Receive Art Therapy at UK HealthCare?

    Art therapy is offered per doctors’ orders to Markey Cancer Center inpatients. Patients may ask their physicians to place an order for the service. Individuals receiving outpatient treatment may participate during chemotherapy infusions as available or may request a physician referral to art therapy sessions.

    For more information on art therapy services, contact

  • Locations

    Markey Cancer Center

    • Inpatient/outpatient chemotherapy clinic: Inpatients at Markey Cancer Center may request an order from their physician or nurse and they will be seen in the hospital room. Individuals receiving outpatient treatment may participate during chemotherapy infusions or may request that their doctor refer them for art therapy sessions.
    • Radiation mask workshops: Radiation masks worn during treatment for head and neck cancer can become powerful symbols of healing when they are transformed into works of art. Markey Cancer Center offers patients the opportunity to work with our art therapist to turn their radiation masks into sculptures and to participate in an optional group exhibition. Participants are assisted in coming up with ideas and completing a unique sculpture. Materials are provided and no art experience is necessary. Please contact us at for more information on times/scheduling.
    • Art therapy samplers: Monthly art therapy samplers are a fun way to take an art break and experience the benefits of art therapy during a visit to the Markey Cancer Center. Watch for the table in the first floor lobby of the Whitney-Hendrickson Building. It takes only minutes to participate and all are invited.

    Eastern State Hospital

    Recovery Mall patient units: Art therapy is available to every patient at Eastern State Hospital. Groups are offered in two settings:

    • The Recovery Mall, where patients leave their units to attend a variety of hour-long groups throughout the day.
    • Patient units, where individuals may participate in groups in a more protected environment.

    Patients have the opportunity to work with tempera and watercolor paints, various drawing materials, collage, and clay. Each group begins with a discussion of a recovery topic such as safety, affirming our strengths, developing a recovery support system, and recovery barriers. Each patient then uses art materials to express their ideas, emotions, experiences, hopes and dreams.With patient permission, a selection of art pieces is exhibited in the Art Therapy Gallery for patients and staff to enjoy and to learn about art therapy.

  • Art Therapy Internship

    Art therapy students: The Art Therapy program offers pre-practicum and practicum experiences for graduate students enrolled in a program accredited by the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CCAHEP). Accepted students will gain experience working with adult oncology patients at Markey Cancer Center as well as the adult inpatient psychiatric population at Eastern State Hospital.

    Observation and learning participation: Students participating in a structured program that offers credit for volunteer experience may apply through the Office of Observation and Learning (OLE). Accepted learners will assist with the preparation of art materials, observe art therapy sessions and groups, and interact with patients. Learners may choose to volunteer at Markey Cancer Center and/or Eastern State Hospital.

    Individuals who are interested in shadowing/observing a licensed art therapist for up to 8 hours are strictly observers and do not interact with patients. Accepted learners may choose to observe at Markey Cancer Center and/or Eastern State Hospital. Clearance for participation through the Office of Learning Experience (OLE) is required for accepted observers.

    Volunteers: Individuals who are interested in volunteering with the art therapy program and do not fit the criteria for Observation and Learning participation may apply through UK Volunteer Services. Accepted volunteers assist with preparation of art materials for patients and may have direct patient contact. Volunteers may choose to work at Markey Cancer Center or at Eastern State Hospital.

    Anyone interested in the above opportunities may contact Fran Belvin, LPAT, at to initiate the process.