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Healing Strokes

Group art therapy classes offer inspiration, tranquility

On a recent afternoon, the quiet tones of African Tranquility's music spilled into the corridors on Level 1 of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Ten people sat around a long table, brushing yellows over oranges and pinks over reds. They cut petals out of paper and made collages of bold and happy flowers. By the end of the two-hour Art Studio, a garden full of gerbera daisies had sprung from their hands.

Led by the Cancer Center's certified art therapist, the group class offers patients and families an opportunity to express themselves while taking their minds off the stresses related to cancer. Art therapy has been shown to reduce pain and anxiety in cancer patients, according to a study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. The Cancer Center's Art Therapy Program is supported by donations to the Robert Bruce Dunlap Memorial Fund.

For Donna Allan, a Chelsea resident who is a breast cancer patient, just a few minutes of painting had already done the trick. She looked at her paint-stained hands and smiled, saying aloud to no one in particular, "I'm already in a better mood than when I came in.'

Try Art Therapy for Yourself! View the video below:

Learn more about art therapy by visiting the Art Therapy Program webpage; or read about others' experiences:

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Thrive Issue: 
Spring, 2010