Art Therapy

Helping Cancer Patients and Caregivers Cope with the Diagnosis through Self-Expression

Art therapy at University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network offers patients and their families/caregivers at UH Seidman Cancer Center a unique way to process and manage the stress of receiving a cancer diagnosis, and subsequently the treatment and life changes that come with it. We offer art therapy in individual, family and group settings.

Participation in art therapy sessions can assist with visual expression of feelings and thoughts related to the cancer journey, while maintaining self-identity. It promotes meaning-making, a sense of control and connections with others who are going through a similar journey. The art therapist guides the sessions with appropriate interventions, materials, and verbal processing – regardless of the art background of the participants.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is the use of art materials and art-making as a vehicle for expression, coping and the fostering of self-awareness and self-reflection. A credentialed professional facilitates the creative process to aid individuals in coping with complex health-related issues, lifestyle transitions, grief, communication and so much more.

For more information, visit: The American Art Therapy Association, The Buckeye Art Therapy Association, and/or Ursuline College.

Benefits of Art Therapy

There are many benefits of art therapy in the medical setting. Our art therapists are trained to work with each individual to identify their personal needs and goals and to assist in the development and implementation of art therapy interventions that can address those needs. The goals of art therapy include, but are not limited to, decreasing depression, anxiety, pain, and fatigue.

Interventions include, but are not limited to:

  • Communication and self-expression: Art therapy allows individuals to express concerns, feelings and thoughts in creative and nonverbal formats. This can be especially helpful for those with challenging health issues such as cancer.
  • Instillation of hope: Individual and group art therapy sessions can provide a creative way to gain control, inner strength and learn new coping skills. The groups allow participants to share their experiences and learn new ideas from each other.
  • Decrease stress: Art therapists are trained to assist individuals with creative stress reduction techniques that they can continue to use on their own throughout their cancer journey.
  • Empowerment and meaning-making: There are no right or wrong responses in art therapy sessions. The art therapist demonstrates how to use the art materials creatively for self-expression. Participants then create art that has personal meaning for them, which can lead to new discoveries and insights.
  • Connecting and giving to others: Participants sometimes choose to create art for loved ones. They also have the opportunity to create works of art with their families and/or caregivers.

Art Therapy at University Hospitals

Art therapists at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center provide services in the following units:

  • Infusion outpatient settings
  • UH Seidman Cancer Center inpatient units
  • Group settings (at UH Cleveland Medical Center and throughout the community)
  • Palliative care (throughout UH Cleveland Medical Center)
  • Intensive care units

In addition, individual, group and family sessions are available in the Art Therapy Studio located in Room 6734 on the 6th floor of UH Seidman Cancer Center. Call 216-844-1211 to inquire or to schedule an appointment. The Art therapists also provide in-services, presentations and hands-on learning to teach the benefits of art therapy to UH employees and at medical and educational conferences nation-wide. They also collect and organize data supporting the effectiveness of art therapy with the oncology population.

History of Art Therapy at University Hospitals

The Adult Art Therapy Department at UH was founded in 1989 by art therapist, Sandra White. The art therapy program was originally housed under the Department of Rehabilitation Services and was used in conjunction with the work of occupational therapists and physical therapists.

Later, as the numerous benefits of art therapy were acknowledged by patients, staff and management, other departments began to add this service to their treatment teams. UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, UH Psychiatry Department and adult medical/surgical units began to incorporate art therapy into their regular services and treatment planning.

Over time, existing art therapists were eventually moved to UH’s intensive outpatient program in psychiatry and UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital’s Family and Child Life Services. Art therapy services provided to the adult medical population eventually merged with The Music Therapy Department under the supervision of Deforia Lane, PhD, MT-BC. Most recently, adult art therapy has become the newest service of the Connor Integrative Health Network.

Education and Training of Art Therapists

The practice of art therapy is a Master’s level entry field. One must receive their Master’s degree in art therapy; many universities across the nation have created dual-degree graduate programs where one can receive their Master’s in both art therapy and counseling.

To be accepted into graduate school, the applicant must have completed 18 hours of fine arts credits and 12 hours of psychology credits, in addition to other applications materials such as an essay and portfolio. Graduates should meet the educational requirements for counseling licensure in Ohio (LPC-Licensed Professional Counselor and LPCC-Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor) and the National Certified Counselor (NCC) through the National Board of Certifying Counselors. Graduates should also meet the education requirements for national registration and board certification for art therapists (ATR-BC) through the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). Applicants should be sure to research if the university is approved by both the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist Board (CSWMFT), and the American Art Therapy Association (AATA).

The graduate student is expected to complete four clinical placements throughout their education track; a total of 425 client contact hours with 850 total hours to be eligible for graduation based on the standards set by the CSWMFT. 350 of these hours must be completed in a psychiatric diagnostic setting.

Research is also required to complete master’s coursework, which can be in the form of a thesis or journal article.

Upon graduation, the graduate must pass the National Counselor Exam (NCE) for the state of Ohio in order to earn his or her LPC. To obtain an LPCC, one must complete 1,500 post-graduate hours of client contact with 150 hours of supervision by someone with an LPCC, in addition to passing the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

The graduate must also complete 1,000 hours of post-graduate client contact with 100 hours of supervision by someone with his or her ATR-BC in order to become a Registered Art Therapist (ATR). Once these credentials have been achieved, the ATR may sit for the Art Therapy Credentials Board Examination. Once passed, the ATR may become a Registered and Board-Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC). Once licensure and credentialing are obtained, professionals are expected to complete a number of Continuing Education Units (CEUs). ATR-BC’s are expected to complete 100 hours every five years. LPC’s and LPCC’s are expected to complete 30 hours every two years. Although a lot of work (and acronyms), these processes ensure that the professional is practicing at his or her highest capabilities, thus ensuring the most effective care for his or her patients.

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