Art Therapy, Dance Therapy, Music Therapy, and Imagery
What is art therapy?
Creating art, viewing it, and talking about it provides a way for people to cope with
emotional conflicts, increase self-awareness. It also allows them to express unspoken
and often unconscious concerns about their illness. The art therapist uses pictures,
art supplies, and visual symbols, as well as an understanding of behavior to help
patients address their own personal concerns and conflicts.
Art therapists work with patients individually or in groups. The art therapist provides
the materials necessary to create paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other types
of artwork. This type of therapy may help you express feelings about cancer through
art. It also helps you discuss emotions and concerns as related to it. In another
form of art therapy, you may view pieces of art, often in photographs. You can then
talk with a therapist about what you see.
Can art therapy help people with cancer?
Art therapy is a body-mind therapy. The American Cancer Society states that art therapy
has not undergone rigorous scientific study to determine its therapeutic value for
people with cancer. Yet, many clinicians have observed and documented significant
benefits among people who have participated in art therapy. Participating in art therapy
or creating art on your own can be an effective form of distraction as well. Thinking
about and creating art can help to distract you from focusing on thoughts of pain
Many art therapists believe this type of therapy works, in part, because of the act
of creating art influences brain wave patterns and the substances released by the
brain. It helps people express hidden emotions; reduce stress, fear, and anxiety;
and provides a sense of freedom.
How does art therapy work?
Creating art with an art therapist helps you express painful thoughts or memories
possibly related to your cancer diagnosis. This may, in turn, help you cope with the
difficulties of the diagnosis. In conventional mental health therapy, people talk
with a counselor. To talk about traumatic or painful experiences that may be hidden
in the subconscious mind is an important part of the healing process. In much the
same way, creating a drawing or painting of an emotion or event can serve as a tool
that helps the art therapist guide you through the process of dealing with similar
Are there any possible problems or complications associated with art therapy?
Art therapy is considered safe and may help people with cancer deal with their emotions.
However, it does not cure cancer. Art therapy, as an addition to your cancer treatment
plan, has the potential to be pleasant and productive. It should not replace the care
and treatment provided by your cancer care team. Always talk with your healthcare
provider for more information.
What is dance therapy?
Dance therapy uses movement to improve mental and physical well-being. It is a recognized
form of complementary therapy used in hospitals and comprehensive clinical cancer
Can dance therapy help people with cancer?
Several clinical reports suggest that dance therapy helps people accomplish the following:
Develop positive body image
Improve self-concept and self-esteem
Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
Decrease isolation, chronic pain, and body tension
Increase communication skills
Encourage a sense of well-being
For some cancer patients, dance therapy is an effective form of exercise. However,
dance therapy has not been studied enough to know if there are any unique health benefits
to cancer patients, or to confirm the effects on prevention and/or recovery of illness.
How does dance therapy work?
The physical benefits of dance therapy as exercise are well documented. Experts have
shown that physical activity is known to increase special neurotransmitter substances
in the brain (endorphins). These create a state of well-being. And total body movement
such as dance enhances the functions of other body systems. These include circulatory,
respiratory, skeletal, and muscular systems. Dance therapy can help you stay physically
fit and enjoy the pleasure of creating rhythmic motions with your body.
Are there any possible problems or complications associated with dance therapy?
There are no known negative side effects of dance therapy. However, dance is a form
of exercise. Always talk with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise
program. This is especially necessary if you have a chronic condition such as arthritis.
Your healthcare provider can evaluate whether the physical movements of dance therapy
might be harmful to your cardiovascular system, joints, or muscles.
What is music therapy?
Music therapy uses music to promote healing and enhance quality of life. It is a complementary
therapy that is used along with other cancer treatments to help patients cope mentally
and physically with their diagnosis. Music therapy may involve listening to music,
creating music, singing, and discussing music, in addition to guided imagery with
Can music therapy help people with cancer?
Scientific studies have shown the positive value of music therapy on the body, mind,
and spirit of children and adults. Researchers have found that music therapy used
along with antiemetic drugs (drugs that relieve nausea and vomiting) in patients receiving
high-dose chemotherapy can be effective in easing the physical symptoms of nausea
and vomiting. When used in combination with pain-relieving drugs, music has been found
to decrease the overall intensity of the patient's experience of pain. This can sometimes
result in a reduced use of pain medicine.
Music can also help accomplish the following:
Relieve stress, apprehension, and fear
Lower heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate
Relieve muscle tension and provide relaxation
Music therapists believe that:
Rhythm is beneficial. Our muscles, including the heart muscle, synchronize to the
beat of music. For example, some classical music approximates the rhythm of the resting
heart (70 beats per minute). This music can slow a heart that is beating too fast.
Self-expression in music therapy can reveal subconscious thoughts and feelings. It
can be therapeutic in the same way psychotherapy has shown to be therapeutic.
The creative process of creating art whether it is through music, painting, sculpture,
or dance can be beneficial.
How does music therapy work?
Music therapy can be incorporated into many different environments. People listen
to music alone or in groups. This can be done with trained therapists or without.
It can be as simple as someone listening to a CD. Specially selected music can be
broadcasted into hospital rooms.
Music therapists design music therapy sessions for a wide variety of needs. Some of
the ways music is used as therapy include the following:
For example, in a music therapy session that is specially designed to promote self-expression,
the therapist might create a musical and emotional environment that encourages you
to respond by revealing personal experiences or feelings. The session might incorporate
speech and drama as well as music. Or the therapist might use singing and discussions.
By playing music with lyrics, the therapist can encourage you to make up words that
are then formed into a positive, unique song.
Are there any possible problems or complications associated with music therapy?
Music therapy, as an addition to your cancer treatment plan, has the potential to
be pleasant and productive. This should not replace the care and treatment provided
by your cancer care team. Always talk with your healthcare provider for more information.
What is imagery?
Imagery is a form of distraction. It involves mental exercises designed to stimulate
the mind to influence the health and well-being of the body. It uses visualization
techniques to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as manage pain,
lower blood pressure, and ease some of the side effects of chemotherapy.
Can imagery help people with cancer?
There is no scientific evidence demonstrating that imagery affects cancer cells. Rather,
it is a relaxation technique, similar to meditation, that has other physical and psychological
effects on the body. In some cases, imagery has been found to ease nausea and vomiting
associated with chemotherapy, relieve stress, enhance the immune system, facilitate
weight gain, combat depression, and reduce pain.
How does imagery work?
There are many different imagery techniques. One popular method is called palming,
which involves placing the palms of your hands over your eyes and first imagining
a color you associate with anxiety or stress (such as red), then imagining a color
you associate with relaxation or calmness (such as blue). Visualizing a calming color
may make you feel relaxed, which may, in turn, improve your health and sense of well-being.
Another common imagery technique is known as guided imagery. Guided imagery involves
visualizing a specific image or goal to be achieved, and then imagining yourself achieving
that goal. Athletes often use this technique to improve their performance.
Are there any possible problems or complications associated with imagery?
Imagery techniques, as an addition to your cancer treatment plan, have the potential
to be pleasant and productive, but should not replace the care and treatment provided
by your cancer care team. Always talk with your healthcare provider for more information.