The role of emotional processing in art therapy (REPAT) for breast cancer patients

Johanna Czamanski-Cohen, Joshua F. Wiley, Noga Sela, Opher Caspi, Karen Weihs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Emotional awareness and acceptance of emotion are associated with improved health in breast cancer (BC) patients. Art therapy (AT) uses visual art-making for expression and communication and has been shown to reduce psychological and physical symptoms in individuals with cancer. A major objective of AT is to encourage increases in emotion processing; however, few studies examine these changes. Purpose: To examine the effect of an eight-week AT group on emotion processing as a mechanism of symptom reduction in women with BC. Design: Randomized clinical trial. Sample: Twenty women diagnosed with breast cancer whom had completed primary treatment. Methods: Participants were randomized to participate in eight-weeks of AT or sham AT, which was a mandala coloring group. Participants answered questionnaires before and after the intervention. We used a Cohen’s D calculator for effect sizes and a t-test to examine group differences. Findings: Statistically significant between-group differences in emotional awareness and acceptance of emotion were found after the intervention. We found large effect sizes between groups and over time in acceptance of emotion, emotional awareness and depressive symptoms. Conclusions: We conclude that emotion processing in AT may be a potential mechanism reducing depression and somatic symptoms in cancer patients. Implications for Psychosocial Providers: Art Therapy is a feasible intervention to increase emotional processing. A larger study is required to further examine its effect on psychological and physical symptoms in breast cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)586-598
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Psychosocial Oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2019


  • RCT
  • behavioral health
  • breast
  • intervention research
  • palliative care
  • quantitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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