Art Therapy with Family Caregivers of Patients with Cancer

Art Therapy with Family Caregivers of Patients with Cancer

Fugate, Jessica

Patients and their caregivers experience a significant amount of stress and anxiety related to their hospitalization. Art therapy has been one suggestion for reducing anxiety and stress. Nurses possess valuable knowledge of patients’ and families’ needs and are in an ideal position to implement art therapy. Decreased anxiety and stress for patients and caregivers will result in better outcomes for the patient and may increase the effectiveness of other interventions administered by the nurse. The focus of this paper was to analyze Walsh, Martin, and Schmidt’s (2004) research study on art therapy for research utilization potential. The purpose of a group utilization project is to educate nurses about the effectiveness of art therapy on decreasing anxiety and stress, and ways to help establish creative arts programs.


The research problem in Walsh et al.’s (2004) study was the stress that was experienced by family caregivers of patients with cancer. The purpose of this study was to “. . . measure the efficacy of a creative arts intervention (CAI) to reduce stress, lower anxiety, and increase positive emotions in family caregivers of cancer patients” (p. 214). The researchers hypothesized that family caregivers would experience reduced stress, lowered anxiety, and increased positive emotions following the CAI (p. 215). The focus of the literature review was on the overwhelming psychological symptoms caregivers experience, as well as the use of creative activities and the viewing of art to promote feelings of wellbeing. The research framework was not explicitly identified, which was a limitation of this study. An Institutional Review Board (IRB) granted approval for the study and informed consent, from the participants was clearly stated, which was a strength of the study. The research design was a pre-posttest quasi-experimental, with CAI being the independent variable. The study participants included a non-random sample of forty family caregivers with a mean age of 51.43; 75% were women, were predominantly either Hispanic or White non-Hispanic, and were spouses of the cancer patients. Data were collected by having the participants complete three self-report instruments (i.e., Mini Profile of Mood States, Beck Anxiety Inventory, and Derogatis Affects Balance Scale). Reliability and validity were addressed for the Beck Anxiety Inventory instrument; however, only reliability was reported for the Derogatis Affects Balance Scale instrument, and neither reliability nor validity were reported for the Mini Profile of Mood States instrument. Data were analyzed using descriptive (i.e., mean, standard deviation) and inferential (i.e., paired-sample t test) statistics. The findings of this study supported the positive benefits of the CAI in reducing stress, decreasing anxiety, and increasing positive emotions.


Walsh et al.’s (2004) study supported art therapy to reduce stress, decrease anxiety, and increase positive emotions. The results of this study can be used to support the group’s utilization project to promote and educate nurses about the importance of creative arts ‘ programs with patients and family members and ways to help establish a creative arts program. One suggestion for future research would be to determine whether the severity of the illness of the patient plays a role in the effectiveness of the art therapy intervention. One feasibility issue for implementing art therapy in hospitals would be the cost of the materials, such as paper, watercolors, markers, and fabrics.


Walsh, S.M., Martin, S.C., & Schmidt, LA. (2004). Testing the efficacy of a creative arts intervention with family caregivers of patients with cancer. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 36, 214-219.

Jessica Fugate, EKU BSN Student

Department of Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing

Eastern Kentucky University

Richmond, KT

Copyright Kentucky Nurses Association Oct-Dec 2005

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