The needs of hospice patients are as varied as their individuality, but a common struggle is the impacts on self-identity. “People who suffer from life threatening and chronic illnesses often describe the impact of their diagnosis, treatment, and illness as having disrupted their sense of self-identity” (Carr, 2014).
My primary role as an art therapy intern to All Care Hospice patients is to provide comfort, companionship, reflection, and assist in connection with others through the creative process. However, it is also my personal goal to facilitate the aspect of exploring self-identity. Art therapy provides a means of communication that may otherwise be difficult to put in words. Patients find a great deal of therapeutic value in the process of creation as it enables self-confidence and control.
Ways in which Art therapy can impact this may include legacy projects, which is when the creative process is used to make a personal celebration that can be gifted to others, or life review. Life review is a recalling significant memories and/or unresolved past conflicts for reflection, validation, celebration, support and connection. Life review with art therapy is where the art is used to create a timeline of the important events in their life or to explore a certain time period more deeply. Recently, one of my patients used collage materials and acrylic paints applied to canvas to depict their rich personal history of multiple careers and passions. The process evoked treasured memories and the completed project will be a gift he will bestow to his family.
As in any situation, the interests and desires of each hospice patient vary from week to week. That may include times when a patient may prefer the passive consideration of art through listening to music or viewing the artwork of others. In fact, the process of artistic contemplation can provide solace much like that experienced in meditation. Included in the individuals I work with, are those that have enjoyed creating art in the past. By reviewing their previous work, they were able to find a renewed pride of accomplishment and identity as artists, and many more unique aspects of themselves.
There are numerous studies citing the benefit of increased quality of life to hospice and palliative care patients provided by art therapy. It is recognized globally as a beneficial aspect of care, and it is an honor to provide this therapeutic service to All Care Hospice clients.
Carr, M. S. (2014). Revisioning self-identity: The role of portraits, neuroscience and the art therapist’s ‘third hand’. International Journal of Art Therapy, 54-70.