The Role of Art Therapists in Cancer Care, with Michelle Itczak
Cancer.Net
April 20, 2017



Download MP3 (5.9 MB/4:18)Through art therapy, someone with cancer can explore and express feelings that they may not be able to say aloud. In today’s podcast, Michelle Itczak will discuss the role of art therapy in cancer care, and what someone with cancer should know about working with an art therapist.


Transcript: [music]


ASCO: You’re listening to a podcast from Cancer.Net. This cancer information website is produced by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, known as ASCO, the world’s leading professional organization for doctors who care for people with cancer.


Through art therapy, someone with cancer can explore and express feelings that they may not be able to say aloud. In today’s podcast, Michelle Itczak will discuss the role of art therapy in cancer care, and what someone with cancer should know about working with an art therapist.


Ms. Itczak is a Board-Certified, Registered Art Therapist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor. ASCO would like to thank Ms. Itczak for discussing this topic.


Michelle Itczak: Hi. My name is Michelle Itczak and I'm a Board-Certified Registered Art Therapist. Today, I'd like to share with you some things that people with cancer should know about working with an art therapist. Art therapy is defined by the American Art Therapy Association as a mental health profession in which an art therapist uses art materials, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to help patients with cancer explore and express their feelings, foster self-awareness, gain a sense of control, and reduce anxiety.


Art therapy is gaining a lot of attention in the oncology world for the benefits it can offer patients and families both during and after treatment. Patients, caregivers, and family members of all ages can reap benefits from engaging with art therapy services.


There's a very good possibility that an art therapist is already working with or near your hospital or healthcare team. You can talk to your doctor, nurse, or social worker about how to get in contact with that person.


Art therapy looks different based on each setting in which it is provided. In an in-patient setting, art therapists will often work directly with someone in their room. In an in-patient center, you might see an art therapist with an art cart who provides services while you receive your chemotherapy. And sometimes, art therapy takes place in an open studio format with a group of people. To find out what options are available or what might be best for you, be sure to ask how you can connect with an art therapist.


Part of an art therapist's role is to serve as a witness to the creative process and to help facilitate discussion about the resulting artwork. This discussion helps to further the patient's growth and understanding of him or herself. Because of an art therapist's training in understanding art and symbols, the dialogue exchanged between a patient and art therapist can result in new interpretations and awareness for the patient.


Adult coloring books are becoming more and more popular and are available almost everywhere. While these offer a great opportunity for self-care and relaxation, they are not actual art therapy. There is a significant difference between coloring and engaging in art making with a credentialed art therapist.


Art therapists are trained to assess a patient's needs and develop individualized art intervention for each patient. Just as a patient's medical treatment is specific to that person, each person's mental health needs are also distinctive. Art therapists utilize a unique skill set of applying theory and art media to develop custom-tailored sessions for their patients.


I hope this information has piqued your interest in the field of art therapy and that you will take advantage of opportunities to work with an art therapist if you or a family member is dealing with cancer. For more information about art therapy, you can visit American Art Therapy Association to learn more about the profession and current research in the field.


ASCO: Thank you, Ms. Itczak. For in-depth profiles of other members of the cancer care team, please visit the Cancer.Net Blog at Blog | Cancer.Net.


Cancer.Net is supported by the Conquer Cancer Foundation, which is working to create a world free from the fear of cancer by funding breakthrough research, sharing knowledge with physicians and patients worldwide, and supporting initiatives to ensure that all people have access to high-quality cancer care. Thank you for listening to this Cancer.Net Podcast.