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Art therapy's contribution to the psychological care of adults with cancer: A survey of therapists and service users in the UK

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  • Michele J.M. Wood
  • Joe Low
  • Alex Molassiotis
  • Adrian Tookman
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/08/2013
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of Art Therapy
Issue number2
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)42-53
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date14/05/13
<mark>Original language</mark>English


While art therapy in cancer care has been documented for over 60 years, there remains a lack of awareness of art therapists within the UK cancer workforce. The study addressed this knowledge gap. This cross-sectional mixed-methods survey used web-based questionnaires for art therapists and service users, and semi-structured interviews with service users. The sampling frame covered England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; data collection occurred in May–July 2011. Inclusion criteria were cancer, art therapy experience and an age of at least 18 years. Art therapists had to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. Therapists' questionnaires used the cancer care pathway and NICE four levels model of psychological difficulties. Thirty-two art therapists and 55 service users participated. Service users found art therapy helpful (92%), agreeing that it benefited coping, aided communication, facilitated expression of feelings, provided new perspectives and assisted distraction from worries. Thematic analysis identified five themes: accessibility; mental wellbeing; creativity; support; and multiple perspectives. Art therapists are part of the UK cancer workforce, contributing their services from diagnosis to end of life. Service users confirmed the psychological importance of art therapy. The non-verbal, embodied, aesthetic aspects of art therapy provide a distinctive addition to verbal psychosocial support.