Thyme, K.E., Sundin, E.C., Wiberg, B., Öster, I., Åström, S., & Lindh, J. (2009). Individual brief art therapy can be helpful for women with breast cancer: A randomized controlled clinical study. Palliative and Supportive Care, 7, 87–95.doi: 10.1017/S147895150900011X
To explore the responses, in terms of self-image and psychiatric symptoms, of women with breast cancer to an art therapy intervention
The art therapy intervention consisted of five sessions in which participants were encouraged to express feelings and thoughts. Participants’ pictures were used as a mode of expression, followed by reflective dialog. Two experienced art therapists conducted interventions and patient interviews, so that the therapist did not function as both interviewer and therapist for the same patient. Art therapy sessions were provided during adjuvant radiation therapy. Study data were collected at baseline, after two months, and after four months.
Randomized controlled trial with longitudinal analysis
At baseline, all participants had similar self-image scores and scores for depression, anxiety, and general symptom severity as a group of females undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer who are otherwise healthy. Those who received art therapy showed a decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression (p < 0.01). Control patients’ symptom levels remained essentially stable. Regression analysis showed that surgery, chemotherapy, parenthood, and study group were significant predictors of depression and anxiety as measured at the end of the study (p < 0.05). Axillary surgery and hormonal treatment predicted higher ratings of anxiety. Subjects’ positive and negative self-image scores were not different between study groups and did not differ significantly from healthy controls.
Participation in art therapy was related to lower patient ratings of depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms. Axillary surgery and hormonal treatment were predictive of higher levels of anxiety and depression.
Findings suggest that art therapy might be helpful in management of symptoms of depression and anxiety in women with breast cancer; however, the clinical relevance of findings is unclear. Further well-designed research is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.