Art and emotion processing among arab breast cancer survivors: An exploratory study

Maimounah Hebi, Johanna Czamanski-Cohen, Faisal Azaiza, Karen L. Weihs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Art therapy (AT) has demonstrated potential for improving the well-being of breast cancer (BC) survivors, but limited research exists on emotion processing (EP) of Arab women in this context. Thus, this study delves into the relationship between EP and the art-making of Arab BC survivors in an AT group intervention to provide an in-depth understanding of their unique experience. We hypothesized that openly expressing emotions in the face of life-threatening events, such as BC, might be difficult for individuals from collective cultures with a strong emphasis on social harmony. We conducted a mixed-methods exploratory study (N = 62) with a visual analysis of 22 drawings and a textual analysis of reports from five art therapists. Positive correlations were observed between conservation values, acceptance of emotions, values, and artistic elements. Acceptance of emotions correlated negatively with space in drawing. Textual analysis of therapist reports revealed two themes—coping strategies and mixed emotions—corresponding to phenomena observed in the drawings. The women reported that art-making in a group facilitated access to their inner emotions, reinforced personal boundaries, and provided a safe space for addressing complex experiences. The AT group also offered socialization with women in similar circumstances. We conclude that AT provided these Arab BC survivors a culturally sensitive means of safely processing emotions through creative visual expression. Further research is needed to examine if AT is also helpful to BC survivors from other collectivist ethno-cultures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102123
JournalArts in Psychotherapy
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Arab
  • Art therapy
  • Breast cancer survivor
  • Emotion processing
  • Psycho-oncology
  • Values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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