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The Duke Cancer Patient Support Program is offering two support groups for patients and caregivers. One uses art to comfort cancer patients while the other uses mind-body approaches to provide support and coping strategies.

Healing Through Art
The art therapy group offers patients an alternative way to express their feelings about their cancer experience.

Each session features a different art project that encourages patients to create images, collages, or sculptures about cancer-related issues such as fear, hope, strength, and support. The pieces are then shared with other group members.

“The sharing portion of each session is almost as important as the creation of the artwork,” says Geoffrey Vaughn, MA, LMFT, ATR, facilitator for the group. “It allows for a strong sense of support among the group.”

For example, recently, one of the patients participating in the group came to a session visibly upset. She had just been told that her cancer had returned. Other group participants made collages expressing their support for her and they gave her their pieces at the end of the day to hang at her home.

“The patient told me that these collages helped her get through some pretty dark days,” says Vaughn.

Healing Through Mind-Body Awareness
The Mind-Body Approaches to Coping with Cancer support group seeks to provide physical and emotional benefits through the application of mind/body skills and techniques.

Cancer patients and their caregivers come together to support one another, learn meditation techniques, and discuss relevant application of the approaches to their lives. These skills demonstrate that patients’ minds and how they think have an effect on their physical selves.

“It is a different -- but often effective -- way for patients to deal with all the stresses in their lives, both with cancer and everything else,” says Tracy Berger, MS, LMFT, co-facilitator for the group. “We try to teach the patients that what they think about really has an impact on their physical selves.”

Berger explains that many patients worry about the worst possible scenarios of how cancer will impact them. Berger teaches the patients and their caregivers techniques to “turn off” the distractions in life and to enjoy the present.

“These new groups, in addition to our other support programs, are great resources for our patients and their families to participate in, to provide a community of support with their peers, and to help them cope with the emotional, relational, and spiritual issues related to their experiences with cancer,” says Cheyenne Corbett, PhD, LMFT, director of the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program.

“I know a cancer patient whose cancer has come back,” says Berger. “The first time she was diagnosed with cancer she didn’t seek out any support programs, however, now that the cancer has returned she has participated in several and told me several times that it has made a huge difference in how she feels.”

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