Changes in breast cancer patients after psychosocial intervention as indicated in drawings


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Objective: The present study attempts to understand the experience of breast cancer patients who had participated in an Eastern-based body–mind–spirit (BMS) psychosocial intervention program by observing changes in the images made by the patients.

Methods: Pre- and post-intervention drawings on the theme of ‘my cancer’ were collected from 67 primary breast cancer patients. Two creative art therapists compared the drawings according to the structural and formal art elements (body), the symbols used (mind), and the emotions and feelings presented in the drawings (spirit). Numbers of pre- and post-intervention drawings, showing the presence of each element in these three dimensions, were also counted and compared.

Results: There were several changes noted between pre- and post-intervention drawings. The use of color, space, and multiplicity increased from 12 to 17%. Images of breasts decreased from 13 to 0%. Representations of cancer decreased from 15 to 7%. There was a slight increase in symbolic representations of natural, landscapes, and social support in post-drawings (3–6%). The portrayal of negative emotions was greatly reduced from 52 to 3%, while positive emotions increased from 28 to 93% in post-drawings.

Conclusions: The comparison of pre- and post-intervention drawings revealed changes in subject matter and accompanying emotions. Overall, there was a trend in changes toward a more peaceful and hopeful attitude. Through the use of realistic and symbolic images, participants depicted a range of emotions. Limitations and recommendations for using art–making, as an assessment tool and intervention, are addressed. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.