Cancer Lifeline launches pilot program in Expressive Arts Therapy this Fall

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Cancer Lifeline launches pilot program in Expressive Arts Therapy this Fall

Starting this Fall, Cancer Lifeline will be hosting expressive arts therapist in-training, Pamela Krueger, who will offer up to six fee-free sessions at our Dorothy O’Brien Center. These sessions with Pamela will take place in our Healing Arts Room and are available to individuals, couples, families, and groups. We plan to pilot this natural extension of our artistic expression programming throughout Fall, Winter, and Spring, and will then evaluate it as a potential ongoing offering. No diagnosis is required to be eligible to meet with Pamela and she is supervised by a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist with twenty-five years of experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. If you are in need of some additional therapeutic support and are a member of our community, consider reaching out to Pamela to learn more.

Just what is expressive arts therapy? Most simply put, it is a therapeutic process that is guided by an exploration of creative arts according to a client’s needs and preferences. The artistic exploration can include any form of creativity in the five main art modalities (sound, movement, visual, written expression, and drama).

It differs from any one of the individual forms of creative arts therapy (e.g., music therapy, visual art therapy, etc.) because it allows for any artistic medium to be used at any time, and for multiple forms of creative exploration to occur in one session. Unlike some aspects of individual creative art therapy approaches, the focus is on the process of exploration rather than the artistic product that is created. The therapist does not assess or interpret the art; the two explore its meaning together.

The “theoretical lenses” or psychological approaches that are at its foundation are humanistic and client-centered and rooted in an awareness of relational-cultural context, oriented towards liberation of the mind and body, and are multiculturally inclusive. Expressive arts therapy draws on all five main expressive arts practices, while also creating something new that stems from its focus on the process. Client and therapist collaborate to support the client’s goals and needs, guided by the therapist’s knowledge of the many ways that artistic exploration supports healing and growth and the client’s inner wisdom that the creative process can reveal.

But what’s it like? Do I have to be an artist to do this kind of therapy? Not at all. In fact, some people who are artists have difficulty letting go of the idea of making something aesthetically appealing with each exploration. While any tangible creations that result from the process may be meaningful for both client and therapist, the meaning tends to spring from the questions that came up during the creative process and any reflections or insights that surfaced from the depth of that process. Expressive arts therapy expands the scope of the resources available to explore what each client needs beyond talk therapy, while also allowing for the natural healing that can arise from engaging with one’s own creativity.

In any individual session, a client might be offered a form of creative exploration and decide whether to accept each invitation. Once embarking on a creative process, the therapist supports the client by offering ways to more deeply delve into the process and explore what arises in the form of metaphor, image, and other aspects of meaning for the client. The therapist also provides for the safe exploration of issues and challenges the client wants to explore. The therapist may offer to support the client’s reflective process about what was uncovered.

Do I have to do art? There is no requirement to do art. As with many forms of therapy, being open to exploring one’s challenges, issues, or reasons for seeking therapy aids the therapeutic process, with the therapist supporting the client’s readiness. Many people who allow themselves to experience the depth of access to inner resources that can come from the creative process develop a fondness for this approach because of how many avenues of exploration it opens up. Most importantly, it is the client who decides what is right for them and the therapist draws on therapeutic knowledge to support the client’s choices.

Do I need insurance? No; the expressive arts therapy offered to members of the Cancer Lifeline community will be fee-free for up to six sessions. It is open to individuals, couples, families, and groups. After that, if additional therapy is desired, the expressive-arts-therapist in training will work with the client to find an expressive arts or other therapist suited to the client’s needs. This is a pilot program in expressive arts therapy at Cancer Lifeline and the future direction of this offering will be evaluated at the end of the pilot period.


Contact Pamela Krueger – pkrueger@cancerlifeline.org.

Learn more about Pamela.