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Integrative Healthcare at the West Cancer Center & Research Institute

An Interview with Art Therapist Paige Scheinberg

Article by Christian Owen

Photography by Sarah Bell Sélavie Photography

Originally published in River City Lifestyle

The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) defines art therapy as an “integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.” For cancer patients, art therapy is even more.

Patients who participate in art therapy classes at the West Cancer Center & Research Institute report reduced stress, anxiety and depression, reduction of pain and improved overall well-being.

Dr. Sylvia Richey, a dedicated medical oncologist is the Director of West’s Integrative Oncology Division and describes their integrative healthcare mission as “a way to offer a full complement of services that address mind, body, spirit.” When asked to share more, Dr. Richey pointed us to West’s art therapist Paige Scheinberg.

To the role of art therapist, Paige brings expertise as a registered yoga teacher (RYT), and a certified mindfulness and meditation teacher. She guides the West Clinic community through mind, body and spirit experiences that invite healing, self-discovery, growth and self-compassion.

The term art therapy became a credentialed title in the U.S. in the 1980s. Because art therapy is a fairly new concept, Paige shares some insights about her experiences.

Q: How do you introduce art therapy to your patients?

A: I often say, “Art therapy can be a place to put all of the things on your mind and heart or it can help you take your mind off all of the things going on. I find that it can be especially helpful because in times of significant stress or unknowns, we often don’t have words to describe what we’re going through, but art therapy helps you begin to explore your experience in a safe, creative way.”

Q:  How does your profession in art therapy influence your personal life?

A: Creativity and self-compassion practices are vital to well-being. The first allows one to see and be in the world with a sense of openness and inspiration, while the latter helps a person know how to better care for themselves and others. When either is missing, I feel a tension and disconnect with myself and those around me. To me, it really is about weaving these practices into our days.

Q:  Are cancer patients especially well suited to the process and benefits or art therapy?

A: Most of the cancer patients and caregivers I meet with share that they’re feeling overwhelmed. When these challenging emotions arrive, our brain stops functioning in a way that allows us to think clearly and make decisions. I guide people to safely begin to be with, express, and release these challenging emotions through the materials.

Q: What’s next for art therapy in Memphis?

A: To support growth and interest in this field, I offer free community Art Therapy Info Sessions 3-4 times a year through the Brooks Museum’s Art Therapy Access Program. As co-chair of the Tennessee Art Therapy Association (TATA), I co-led multiyear efforts to get legislation passed in spring 2021 to create a state art therapy license, which will make art therapy services and jobs more accessible. The first art therapy graduate program in Tennessee has also been approved at Middle Tennessee State University, so I’m excited to see how the field grows in Memphis and throughout the state in the coming years!

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