art & ethics

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art & ethics

The Journey of Healing in Cancer Patients Through Art Therapy

June 23rd, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized



Advocacy is the heart and soul of nursing practice. Nurses are at the front lines of care, and they have a good handle on the issues and what the patients need. Oncology nurses are instructed in the literature to educate patients about cancer management prior to the first treatment and during cancer management to promote informed consent, but not to analyze patients’ information or self-determination preferences. Oncology nurses do, however, advocate for their patients by presenting and raising awareness of patients’ needs and preferences in regard to the healthcare system.

In the past, art therapy was defined as a “mental health profession,” but that didn’t make good sense since research has been trending in favor of art therapy in joined health and mixed medicine arenas. Art therapy has been used with a variety of medical populations. When medical art therapy was included as part of team treatment, art expression was used by cancer patients to communicate perceptions, needs, and wishes to the professionals who took care of them. The medical art therapist was skilled at assessing each patient’s strengths, coping styles, and cognitive development. A goal in art therapy was to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being. (

Researchers have shown in the article, “Treating Cancer with Art” by Lizette Borelli; drama therapy helps improve emotions for cancer patients. Drama contributes the connection between the body and mind. (Borrelli). Drama therapy is the use of theatre techniques to facilitate personal growth and promote mental health. For example, in drama therapy Dance/movement therapists use communicative, expressive, and adaptive behaviors and interactions in treating both groups and individuals. A therapist would have cancer patients line up in their rooms and just express a dance based off of how they felt that day. The registered dance therapist adapts the approach to meet the needs for cancer patients.  The use of theatrics allowed the patient’s self-esteem to increase as well as a better mental health status. Patients who are emotionally exhausted, drama therapy provides a different experience from the way of being themselves.

Art therapy helps improve pain management for cancer patients. Music therapy reduces high blood pressure and lowers rapid heart rate. (Borrelli). 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. 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 cancer patients 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 cancer patients to make up words that are then formed into a positive, unique song. Patients who have undergone bone-marrow transplants have reported less pain. (Borrelli). The evidence supported by this was a study conducted from the University of Rochester Medical Center with 42 patients ageing from 5-65, who were treated for numerous types of cancer.  (Borrelli). Half of the patients who were exposed to music therapy and the other group were standard care. The results concluded that the patients who were exposed to music therapy showed less pain and that their symptoms were moderate. (Borelli).

Another example of what researchers have shown is art therapy with cancer patients was through writing. Borelli addresses that writing is the ability to express how you’re feeling during that difficult time. Writing therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the act of writing and processing the written word as therapy. Writing therapy portrays that writing one’s feelings gradually eases feelings of emotional trauma. For example, in writing a nurse may ask a cancer patient to express how they are feeling for that day or even poetry to help reliever their mind.  A study at the University of Texas was conducted on 42 patients who had kidney cancer. Three groups had to do expressive writing, writing about their battle with cancer, and health behavior. In conclusion the studies proved that cancer patients could benefit from sleep related health. (Borrelli).

Researchers state that art therapy can improve the outcome of life. In the article, “Art Therapy for People with Cancer” by Lynne Eldrige she states that art therapy allows the patient the opportunity for quiet and relaxation. (Eldrige). Researchers have found that creating art was helpful in bringing a positive effect on personal growth, coping, and social interactions for people living with cancer. (Eldrige). The benefits which helped for patients were allowing the pain medication costs to be lowered as well increasing compliance’s.

The purpose of this paper was to critically examine the notion of caring nurses by having them advocate with doctors and family members and therapists that this approach should be tried and whether it is something that can be taught to undergraduate student nurses. I argue that caring and its absence are of central importance to nursing as a concept and a professional ideal.




Work Cited

Borreli, Lizette. “Treating Cancer with Art: 5 Alternative Therapies That Heal

Cancer Symptoms.” Medical Daily 5 May 2013. Web. 8 June 2015.

Eldridge, Lynne. “Art Therapy for People with Cancer –Benefits & Resources.”

About Health 25 October 2014. Web. 8 June 2015

Hehn, Desiree. “Art Therapy and Cancer Patients.”

Flagler College Gargoyle 12 March 2010. Web. 8 June 2015

O’Neill, Molly. “Therapeutic Art Making: Establishing an Art Therapy Program that Benefits both Cancer Patients and their Caregivers.” Ursuline College 116 (2007). ProQuest. Web. 5 June 2015

Causo, Iyna. “The Pictures’ of Heath: Art’s Healing Power.”

The Saturday Evening Post 281.1 (Jan/Feb 2009): 70-72. ProQuest. Web. 5 June 2015

“What is Osteosarcoma” BCRT. Charitable Incorporated Organization, n.d. Web. January. 2013

“What is Art Therapy” About Education. Cherry. Kendra


By: Jessica LaLanne



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