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Art Therapy and The Lancet Journal

14/04/2021

Children's Cancer Foundation

Art therapist Tilly Dawson shares the significance of a new collaboration between the RCH and The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Journal.

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The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Journal April 2021 Cover

In 2021, The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Journal will feature artwork created by children in the art therapy program at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. We couldn’t think of a more perfect week to share this meaningful and creative collaboration than during World Creativity and Innovation Week.

We spoke to Matilda (Tilly) Dawson, an Art Therapist about the significance of this special collaboration.


What is the significance of the Art Therapy Program being featured in Lancet?

It’s has been a fantastic opportunity for the advocacy of art therapy and our program; particularly to be invited to collaborate with such a prestigious medical publication in an international setting. A lot of the work we do in the program is to develop the artist identity, so this is an important moment of validation for our children and young people. 

How were the 12 cover artworks selected?

The editorial team from Lancet were dedicated to capturing the heart of the work we do in the program, across the cancer journey. We contacted a number of our young artists, using some previous made work from our program and invited them to make a submission to the Lancet. Most of the artwork submissions explored the themes of hospitalisation, the process of art making and the fostering of the artists’ identity. Our team submitted the works to the Lancet for final selection. 

As an Art Therapist, what inspires you most when you’re working with the children?

Children and young people are often curious, humourous and experimental in their approach in engaging in artmaking and art therapy. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to constantly witness and learn from the young people I work with. 

How does the process of “creating” help sick children process what is going on around them?

Art therapy gives the children a space to be themselves, to explore and engage in a positive experience in a clinical, hospital setting. We are able to create a safe place where children are able to process feelings about hospitalisation, diagnosis, body image and identify in an objective and tangible form (the artwork) without judgement. 

Are there any common themes that you see come through the children’s creations?

Often in art therapy it is rare we come to a finished artwork. We prefer the experience of art making and the inherent nature of art materials to regulate and soothe rather than be about creating a ‘finished piece”. In addition to traditional art media, we also make a lot of slime and engage with other sensory art materials. 

We see a lot of strength-based artworks featuring superheroes, families and images exploring the child’s time in hospital and cancer journey. 

You can show your support for our funded programs by donating today.

Learn more about Tilly and her daily work as an Art Therapist at RCH.

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