For Your Patients: Art Therapy

While there seems to be a medical test for all that ails, emotional pain or elements of fear can’t be spotted by ultrasound or x-ray. Emotions are difficult to measure and equally difficult, sometimes, to verbalize. With that in mind, the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program is now offering art therapy—a method that utilizes the creative process of art to access emotions.

“This is a support group,” said Geoffrey Vaughn, a medical family therapist with the Duke Cancer Institute. “We use art-making as a vehicle for expressing difficult or challenging emotions. These groups are thematic and explore feelings of hope, fear, confusion, frustration and others. Using visual expression, we cut to the chase—expediting the process of accessing our feelings—even uncomfortable emotions.”

Vaughn, a licensed art therapist, enlists various art mediums, supplies and methods, including collage, drawing, painting, photography and sculpture. However, it’s in the process of creating that participants begin to access the emotions associated with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

“Life is messy,” said Vaughn. “Art-making can also be messy. But as one’s creative masterpiece comes into view, so, too, do those onetime inaccessible feelings.”

The Art Therapy Group takes place twice each month in the 0 Level Conference Room in the Duke Cancer Center. Previous art experience is not necessary. All materials are supplied. There is no cost, however; registration is requested. Patients can register by calling Geoffrey Vaughn, LMFT, ATR, at 919.668.4029.

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