Art therapists are becoming increasingly involved in palliative care across the country. Using creative arts interventions, art therapists support patients and families living with serious illness. This toolkit provides resources to support the integration of art therapists within the interdisciplinary care team. Artwork created by patients is also included to exemplify the healing power of art therapy in palliative care settings.

What’s in the Toolkit

Art therapy has been shown to have numerous benefits for patients with serious illness. This is a sampling of the research.

Art Therapy Toolkit - Introduction

Creative Arts Therapist and Child Life Specialist, Sarah Yazdian Rubin, LCAT, ATR-BC, CCLS, introduces the Art Therapy Toolkit she created in collaboration with CAPC. Find out more and contact Sarah -

Top Ten Tips Palliative Care Clinicians Should Know About Music Therapy and Art Therapy

Foundational Research on Art Therapy in Palliative Care

Portrait Therapy: Supporting Client Voices of Self-Identity

This article describes how portrait therapy benefits patients with serious illness, as well as the portrait viewers, by raising awareness of suffering and facilitating bereavement.

Five Functions of Art Therapy Supporting Couples Affected by Alzheimer's Disease

A multi-case study of art therapy with couples affected by Alzheimer's disease, demonstrating that art therapy fulfills five specific functions: play, appease, stimulate, express, and transform.

The Use of Art in the Medical Decision-Making Process of Oncology Patients

An interview-based study showing the benefits of an art therapy group on medical decision-making among oncology patients.

Home-Based Art Therapy for Older Adults

An article addressing art therapy for homebound people, giving special attention to the set of needs for this environment.

Walkabout: Looking In, Looking Out: A Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy Program

A report of a mindfulness-based art therapy (MBAT) intervention, which integrates mindful walks outside with use of digital photography for people with cancer and their care partners.

Art Therapy in Hospice: A Catalyst for Insight and Healing

This case study illustrates ghow art therapy assists a hospice patient with confronting existential issues at the end of life.

Making Art from Memories: Honoring Deceased Loved Ones through a Scrapbooking Bereavement Group

This article describes the therapeutic benefits of scrapbooking in an art therapy bereavement group for grieving adults and their family members.

Creating Mandalas for the Management of Acute Pain Symptoms in Pediatric Patients

A randomized controlled clinical trial showing the feasibility and impact of a fast-acting mandala intervention to reduce physical pain and psychological anxiety during needle sticks in pediatric patients.

AATA Art Therapy in Action

Brief videos from the American Art Therapy Association, featuring experts on the benefits of art therapy for a diverse range of patients from pediatric cancer care to memory care.

Art Therapy as a Psychosocial Support in a Child’s Palliative Care

A viewpoint article outlining art therapy for a pediatric cancer patient in response to the changing needs of the child and family from diagnosis to end of life.

Guidance for implementing and managing art therapy and arts-based work within the health care setting.

Art Therapy in Pandemics: Lessons for COVID-19

A report on protocols art therapists can enact during pandemics.

Best Practices for Using Art Supplies Hygienically during the COVID-19 Outbreak

American Art Therapy Association blog outlining best practices for material management during COVID-19.

Consent Forms for Use or Display of Artwork

An example authorization form for use of artwork for such purposes as education, exhibition, research, and publication.

AATA Ethical Principles for Art Therapists

Ethical principles to guide art therapists and safeguard the families and communities with whom they work.

Art Therapy and Arts in Health: Identifying Shared Values but Different Goals Using a Framework Analysis

An analysis of the similarities and differences between art therapists and artists working in the health care setting and the implications for patients, providers, and the general public.

Self-Care Checklist

A self-care checklist for any person working in difficult settings.

Art therapists are uniquely positioned to support children of palliative care patients.

The Book about Daddy Dying: A Preventive Art Therapy Technique to Help Families Deal with the Death of a Family Member

A case study describing an effective art therapy technique of creating a book to address feelings related to impending loss.

Examples of artwork created by patients, and their stories.

The Loom

An online gallery of consented patient artworks from The Loom flipbooks and the stories behind them.

StoryCorps Interview

The StoryCorps Legacy Program gives people with serious illness and their families the opportunity to record, preserve, and share their stories.


A portrait gallery and example of a completed art therapy project.

Further reading about art therapy and bereavement resources for use with children and families.

Art Therapy Blogs

Arts and Health blog of Psychology Today.

Bereavement Booklist

A list of books, workbooks, and websites to support children as they experience the death of a loved one. Some resources are interactive and should be facilitated by a parent or professional counselor.


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