Art Therapy

image of paint brush, paint, other supplies
View a collection of art therapy videos, showcasing projects you can do at home.

Healing through Creative Expression

The emotions involved in coping with illness, treatment, living with uncertainty and meeting the challenges of everyday life are often difficult to describe in words. Making art that is meaningful to you can provide support that is creative and unique to your personal journey.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses creative expression to promote emotional, mental and physical well-being. It is grounded in the belief that the creative process of art making is inherently healing and serves as outlet for self-expression and making meaning. Art therapy in health care integrates artistic expression into your healing process, a practice that complements standard cancer treatment.

Our Board Certified art therapist will help guide you in your creative process using various artistic media and techniques. Art projects are based on individual needs and preferences. You do not have to be a talented artist to participate. No prior experience is necessary. Regardless of your diagnosis, treatment or stage of cancer, all University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center patients are welcome to participate in our art therapy program.

Benefits of Art Therapy

Being creative can provide a safe and gratifying way to explore difficult experiences and emotions such as fear, sadness, frustration, and anxiety. Using the creative arts can also be a way to express intention, gratitude, love and hope.

  • Lowers stress and increases relaxation
  • Decreases feelings of depression, anxiety and isolation
  • Enhances coping skills and resilience
  • Engages the senses to improve the mind-body connection
  • Promotes empowerment and regaining control
  • Increases self-awareness and self-esteem
  • Defines and strengthens identity
  • Provides a means of self-expression and enhances communication with family, friends and caregivers
  • Manages symptoms and reduces side effects from medical treatments such as pain, nausea, etc.
  • Provides a distraction during uncomfortable procedures and long waits
  • Improves quality of life

Nurture Your Inner Creativity

Whether you’re a beginning, growing or experienced artist, you can choose from a variety of materials, techniques and tools to get your ideas flowing:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Beading
  • Coloring
  • Journaling
  • Printing
  • Collaging
  • Photography
  • Sculpting

There are no expectations or judgements on what you create. The creative process, as well as the final products that emerge, helps individuals accomplish a variety of therapeutic tasks.

Art Therapy Opportunities

Art Studio Workshops Space for Creativity and Healing

Make art alongside other patient artists in a supportive environment. Led by Art Therapist Melinda Hallenbeck-Kostecky, each workshop offers a different art process or project idea.

  • Develop your own creation or follow step-by-step instructions
  • All supplies are provided unless noted in the description


  • Advanced registration is required: call 734-615-4012
  • Limited to 10 participants per group
  • Held every third week on Wednesday and Thursday, September - June
  • Choose a time slot: 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • Located at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, 1500 Medical Center Drive, level B1, classroom 1139

See information about the morning session.

See information about the afternoon session.

Private Art Therapy

Private art therapy sessions are available for Cancer Center patients. Locations include:

  • Infusion appointments
  • Extended hospital stays
  • Private clinic


  • Advanced registration is required: call 734-232-6366
  • Family members are welcome to participate

Voices Art Gallery

Inspired by the artwork of Merrill Shapero, the gallery was created to provide people living with cancer the opportunity to share their story. Mr. Shapero’s artwork was the first show, displaying 10 watercolors that journal his experiences as a hospitalized patient. These artworks touched patients, families, and staff. It was clear that future shows would offer a variety of ways to understand how cancer affects our lives. The Voices Art Gallery is designed to give the opportunity to individuals to share their experiences in living with cancer. The artworks chosen to be displayed will tell individual stories, inspire, encourage and educate others who are experiencing cancer.

If you would like to submit artwork for consideration; or if you would like to know more about the gallery and its location, please visit the Voices Art Gallery webpages.


The Art Therapy Program is made possible by gifts to the Helen and Sonya Fund and the Cancer Center Art Therapy Program. Program supplies are generously supported by the Robert Bruce Dunlap Memorial Fund. Learn how you can help by visiting our Make a Gift web pages.

Watch the video to learn more about art therapy

View a collection of art therapy videos -- some provide step-by-step instructions so you can do art projects at home.

Read about others' experiences with art therapy:

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