Art therapy prescription improving patient mood and mobility

HammondCare’s Centre for Positive Ageing has brought music, dance and the visual arts to Greenwich Hospital as part of the Arts on Prescription program.

The program has been a source of relaxation for patients such as Jo Finlay, who has been recovering from radiation therapy and pneumonia.

Sharing her experiences of the program in an interview with ABC, Jo Finlay explains her diagnosis of advanced breast cancer has her remaining optimistic, despite a poor medical prognosis. "It's not something where there are good outcomes," Ms Finlay said. "In fact, most women with advanced breast cancer are expected to die but you never give up hope, put it that way."

As part of her medical treatment, Ms Finlay has been prescribed art therapy by her Doctor to help improve mood and mobility. "I've only done it a couple of times and I've just loved it," Ms Finlay said. "Just to sit here and concentrate on art is quite a luxury.

"I think it also reminds you of something we all forget and that is — just concentrate on the moment and don't worry about what the outcome is."

Arts program expanded

The program is based on a UK model where health professionals write prescriptions for patients to participate in the arts. Originally targeted at the aged-care sector, the Arts on Prescription program is now being trialed with cancer patients at HammondCare’s Greenwich Hospital.

Chief Medical Officer, Associate Professor Dr Andrew Cole, says the program plays an important part in treating patients. 

"Having Arts on Prescription is having another discipline in my team."

"In any rehabilitation team we have physios, we have occupational therapists, social workers and so on and the services of each of the members of the team is quite precisely prescribed and delineated.”

"The artist — in this case we have Janette — is a full member of our team."

A/Prof Dr Cole says that while the sample size is small, the program has helped to improve general physical functioning for patients recovering from cancer treatment.

"The tangible things that we actually measure is how the person is physically and functionally improved in their therapy program with us," he said.

 "We've found that people who added it as an important part of what they're doing actually improve their general physical functioning in other ways."

"Our hope is to roll out the program to other cancer rehab centre’s across Australia as well."

'A turnaround for patients'

The artwork previous patients at the rehabilitation centre have created are varied — from drawings, prints, photographs to paintings.

Program Artist Janette Fodera says she has seen previous patients at the clinic gain a lot from art therapy.

"It's a real turnaround for a lot of patients, they find that it's actually been something they have enjoyed," she said. 

"Maybe not all will go away and paint but I have had patients who have felt that this sparked something new for them and I've sent them home with materials to continue their journey."


To find out more about the Arts on Prescription program, visit the program’s webpage, or contact 8788 3900. 

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