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Art Therapy

A woman and two men painting in art class.

Art therapy uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental and emotional health. Art expression under the direction of a trained therapist can help relieve stress and tension, reduce pain, and improve one’s mood and sense of well-being.

Anyone of any age, with or without art experience – can benefit from art therapy. Art therapy is quite simply a non-verbal way to communicate thoughts, feelings, experiences and imagination.

  • What can I expect during an art therapy session?

    Art therapy sessions include both art-making and conversation with the therapist. You can choose to work with a variety of art materials such as paints, oil pastels, markers and clay. The art therapist may suggest a starting point and will offer technical help as needed.

    Individuals may be focused on concerns such as the following: their illness, stress from being in the hospital, missing home and loved ones, coping emotionally, relationships, spiritual issues, or other areas of life.

    Once you complete your art piece, you will have the opportunity to talk with the therapist about the process and whatever is on your mind. While each session is unique and shaped by your individual needs, most people find art therapy relaxing and fun.

  • What are the benefits of art therapy?

    While each person’s experience is unique, the most commonly reported effects are feelings of enjoyment and relaxation. Specific positive results can include pain relief, reduced anxiety and depression, and feelings of both physical and emotional well-being.

  • Does research show that art therapy is effective?

    There is research to support the use of art therapy, under the guidance of a trained therapist. Art therapy has been shown to reduce pain, depression, anxiety and fatigue.

    It has also been found to strengthen positive feelings, raise overall quality of life and increase perceptions of general physical and mental health.

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

  • Learning and volunteer opportunities

    Art therapy graduate 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.

    Other students

    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 eight 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.


    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 and/or at Eastern State Hospital.

    For further information about any of the above opportunities, contact Fran Belvin, LPAT, at

  • Classes & events

    Our classes and services are easily accessible for UK HealthCare patients, faculty and staff, with convenient parking in the outpatient lot in front of the Whitney-Hendrickson Building on the UK Markey Cancer Center campus. See the schedule of classes and events.