Art therapy

Patient’s family member holding a mask she made at the monthly Art Therapy Sampler

Art 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 at

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

Page last updated: 7/10/2017 4:30:53 PM