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Supportive care with art therapy, for patients in isolation during stem cell transplant

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 March 2012

Alessandra Agnese*
Department of Hematology II, University Hospital San Martino, Genova, Italy
Teresa Lamparelli
Department of Hematology II, University Hospital San Martino, Genova, Italy
Andrea Bacigalupo
Department of Hematology II, University Hospital San Martino, Genova, Italy
Paola Luzzatto
Department of Hematology II, University Hospital San Martino, Genova, Italy
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Alessandra Agnese, Mura dello Zerbino 1-C, 16122 Genova, Italy. E-mail:



The aim of the art therapy study was twofold: 1) to identify the specific factors of the art therapy experience perceived as helpful by patients undergoing an allogenic hemopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT); and 2) to establish an appropriate criterion for referral to art therapy among this population.


Between 2006 and 2010, a dedicated art therapist met all the patients who were referred to her by the hematologist. The art therapy approach and techniques are described. Outcome was evaluated by self-assessment, based on written questionnaires that were given to the patients before discharge.


Seventy-four patients followed the weekly individual sessions during isolation and filled out the questionnaire. All of them defined the art therapy experience as “helpful” and specified in which way it had been helpful. Through a thematic analysis of the patients' written comments, three specific aspects of art therapy, which the patients found most helpful, were identified: (1) being able to calm down from anxiety, through the use of art therapy techniques (77.02%); (2) feeling free to express and share difficult feelings, which they had not communicated verbally (75.67%); and (3) establishing meaningful connections with their loved ones, through images made in art therapy (36.48%). Case illustrations are provided.

Significance of results:

The results suggest that referral to art therapy from the team might be helpful and appropriate: (1) when patients are anxious; (2) when they are uncommunicative and hide their feelings; and (3) when they feel disconnected from their loved ones at home.

Original Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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