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Workshops & seminars

PERFORM Colloquium: Art therapy as an intervention for breast cancer patients: Clinical implications for improving quality of life

Wednesday, April 4, 2018
4 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Virginia Lee RN, PhD & Rosemary C. Reilly, PhD


This event is Free




Wendy Kunin
514-848-2424 ext. 5295


Loyola Jesuit Hall and Conference Centre
7141 Sherbrooke W.
Room 120




Short Overview of talk: 

This presentation will focus on the findings from a qualitative inquiry set in a tertiary cancer care center. It examines the impact of an on going creative arts and support group on the experiences of women living through breast cancer. Ten women were interviewed about their experiences making art, many for the first time. The data suggest that art therapy can be a meaningful therapeutic adjunct to complement conventional cancer treatments. Art making triggered a powerful process of meaning making, accessing a woman’s feelings and thoughts, and reconstructing her identity as she integrated her cancer trajectory into an existential understanding of her life course.

Event description:

  • Art therapy provided a gateway for women to connect, express, and reflect on their cancer experience.
  • Art making initiated a transitional process that allowed women to move from seeing themselves solely as damaged bodies towards a more integrated sense of self with a notion of possible futures, and a concern for their legacy in the world.
  • Within the cancer experience, art making was more than a distraction, but shaped an active, dynamic, liminal space that allowed for patient agency to be enacted.

This research was sponsored by Fonds de Recherche du Québec- Santé, Le Réseau de Recherche en Interventions en Sciences Infirmières du Québec, and the Centre for Human Relations and Community Studies at Concordia University.

Research Team:

Virginia Lee, RN, PhD
McGill University, Montreal
McGill University Health Centre

Kate Laux, MA, ATPQ
Art therapist, Cedars CanSupport

Rosemary C. Reilly, PhD, CCFE
Concordia University

Andréanne Robitaille, RN, MScN
Cedars CanSupport

Speaker Bios:

Dr. Virginia Lee is Interim Senior Nursing Research Consultant at the McGill University Health Centre and Assistant Professor at the Ingram School of Nursing in McGill University. Her research focuses on the study and evaluation of supportive care interventions to manage the existential crisis of cancer and improve quality of life across all phases of the cancer patient experience.

Rosemary C. Reilly is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Human Sciences and Graduate Program Director of the MA program in Human Systems Intervention at Concordia University in Montréal. Her research interests focus on the use of qualitative, arts-based and contemplative methods in researching adversity and the impact of trauma on individuals and communities. She also investigates both individual and social creativity and posttraumatic growth.

Related links:

Reilly, R. C., Lee, V., Laux, K., & Robitaille, A. (2017) Creating doorways: Finding existential meaning and growth through the creative arts in the face of life-threatening illness. In: Creative practices for improving health and social inclusion. University of Seville - Vicerrectorado de Investigación- V Plan Propio de Investigación, Seville, Spain, pp. 279-289. ISBN 13- 978-84-697-3582-4

Emergence from the rubble… The found poems and artwork of women living through breast cancer engaging in art therapy.

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