Creative Adventures and Flow in Art-Making: a Qualitative Study of Women Living with Cancer

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This qualitative study invited women living with cancer who engaged in visual art-making to reflect on their experiences of the creative process. The study sought to explore whether the participants described experiences of flow during art-making and, if so, how such experiences helped them to cope with cancer. Ten women took part in semi-structured interviews. They described a range of difficulties associated with their illness. The interview data were analysed using a template approach, based on the theory of Csikszentmihalyi.

The participants described a number of experiences that have been associated with flow in previous work. However, one aspect of flow, namely having clear goals, was not present clearly in the participants' accounts. The participants also described other facets of art-making that seemed part of the flow experience, including sensuous vitality, responsiveness to art materials and evolving imagery, and creative adventures. The flow experiences during art-making helped to banish intrusive thoughts about cancer, provided valued experiences of mastery and control and encouraged the participants to engage in positive journeys into the unknown, thereby alleviating some of the stress of cancer.

The study offers a detailed analysis of the experience of creative occupation and has relevance to occupational therapists working with clients who have life-threatening illnesses.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.

    BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at

    Submissions can be made at

    The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.

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