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Art Therapy

Art therapy is a form of emotional support that uses fine art materials and activities to help people express themselves, find strength and promote relaxation.
Art therapy can decrease stress and some of the physical symptoms of cancer, and has been shown to increase the quality of life for people with cancer. Making art can provide a positive distraction and an outlet for strong emotions.

Click on the "Groups" and "Resources" tabs for more information about art-based programs and resources.

Who can access art therapy?

Art therapy is available during group sessions for cancer patients,  family members and other support people. Different groups are available at the different centres or available through distance programs. 

How to access? 
For more information, contact the Art Therapist by email or call one of these Patient & Family Counselling offices to inquire about a local program:

CentreTelephoneToll-free (within BC)
ext. 644733
ext. 672194
ext. 672194

Due to COVID-19 art groups are being held using Virtual Health (Zoom for Health care). If you are interested in attending a virtual group please contact Sara Handkinson, Art Therapist.

BC Cancer hosts several different groups which use art therapy techniques. Making art within a group provides the same benefits of individual art therapy, with the added benefit of providing another form of connection between group members. Below are the programs offered:

Art in the Afternoon
An open invitation to any patient and caregiver to participate in a two hour art therapy session. Materials and instructions for a mixed media art project are included. This group is offered in Abbotsford and Surrey. Inquire at your local Patient & Family Counselling office for details. To register, contact the Art Therapist by email or call 604-877-6000 ext. 672184.

Art Studio Group
Open to any patient or caregiver with an interest in trying out art therapy. This group is led by a student art therapist on Friday afternoons, 1:30 pm-3:30 pm, at BC Cancer – Vancouver. It is a drop-in group, but registration is required before initial attendance. To register, contact the Art Therapist by email or call 604-877-6000 ext. 672184.

Art for Self-care Group

Learn simple meditation and art exercises to help with self care. This group is available to all interested patients and caregivers. The group currently meets on Thursday afternoon,1:30 pm-3:00pm. No art experience is necessary. You will need a device to access Zoom for Health care and pencil and paper. To register, contact the Art Therapist by email or call 604-877-6000 ext. 672184.

Children's Program
A group for families with children, aged 5-12, and a parent or close grandparent living with cancer. The group is co-facilitated by an art therapist, counselor and sometimes a nurse.  It includes art therapy activities, an educational lesson, and concurrent support group session for parents. The group is offered in AbbotsfordSurrey, Vancouver and Victoria, in the Spring, Fall and Winter. Contact the Art Therapist by email for more information, or call your local Patient & Family Counselling office.

Chinese Art Therapy Group
This group is open to both Mandarin and Cantonese speaking patients and is co-facilitated by a counselor fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin and an art therapist. Each week the group engages in different art activities, such as drawing, sculpture and mixed media painting. It is offered at BC Cancer – Vancouver in the Spring and Fall. To register, contact the organizer by email or call 604-877-6000 ext. 672375.

Distance Young Adults Group
This group is for young adult patients outside of Vancouver. It is offered online, one or two times per year.

Parent Tot Group
A group for parents with cancer and their children, aged 0-5. This group meets at BC Cancer – Vancouver and includes story time, play, and art activities. Registration is required. Contact the Art Therapist by email for more information.

Young Adults Group
A group for younger adults, aged 19-40. This group generally takes place two Thursday afternoons per month, at BC Cancer – Vancouver. It incorporates art therapy techniques and focuses on topics specific to young adults. Registration is required.
BC Cancer has several books available which have been designed with principles of art therapy:

Adult coloring books
Recently, adult coloring books have become popular as coloring has been found to be very meditative. For more information or to download a coloring sheet or mini-coloring book, see our Managing Stress Toolbox.

My Adventures with Fox and Owl: A Creative Journal for Kids with Cancer in the Family
In this journal (for children aged 5-9) the characters of Fox and Owl were created to be companions for children reading the book.  They invite children to draw and write about themselves and their family, and introduce readers to other characters in the forest, including Nurse Bunny, who teaches them about cancer.
Download sample pages from this booklet.

Reaching Out to Your Children when Cancer Comes to Your Family: A Guide for Parents, by June Slakov
This book includes information and resources for parents about communicating with children of different ages about cancer, treatments, and coping with change as a family.  Download a copy.

Scribble and Paste: A Creative Journal for if Cancer Comes to Your Family
This journal (for children aged 10+) invites readers to draw and collage in, expressing thoughts around family, cancer, and finding strengths and support when a family member has cancer. Download a copy

For more information about any of these resources, please contact the Art Therapist by email or call 604-877-6000 ext. 672184.
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