Supportive Care at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center
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Integrative Therapies

Shiatsu Bodywork Massage

Shiatsu bodywork massageJoan Karnell Supportive Care Services has been offering shiatsu as a supportive care service for more than ten years. It is a popular integrative/complementary therapy for patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy, for patients regaining strength and functioning after completing cancer treatment, and for patients experiencing extended illness. Shiatsu is also popular with caregivers and family members.

Shiatsu is a therapy based in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The three major branches of TCM are Asian bodywork therapies (ABT), acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Similar to acupuncture, shiatsu focuses on treating the patient's bio-energetic system by applying finger and hand pressure to the body's energy channels (meridians) and the acupoints. The goal of treatment is to shift the imbalances within that bio-energetic system back into a state of balance, which enhances the ability of the body, mind and spirit to care for itself.

Aside from being a pleasant experience, the benefits of shiatsu include:

  • stimulation of the body's natural healing capacity
  • strengthening the immune system
  • decreasing stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, depression and anger
  • easing symptoms such as nausea/vomiting, aches/pains, and fatigue
  • reestablishing a positive and healthy relationship with one's body

A session begins with questions about a patient's health history, illness and symptoms. A Chinese medicine assessment reveals the condition of the patient's energy system and guides the shiatsu treatment. Most treatments are given in a massage chair, unless a patient's limitations or comfort level requires otherwise. Patients always remain clothed during a shiatsu treatment. For more information or to schedule a shiatsu treatment at call 1-800-789-PENN (7366).

Music Therapy

Music Therapy is the planned use of music experiences to address a range of issues related to illness and treatment, such as pain, nausea, depression, and stress. There are currently a variety of experiences available, including music and relaxation and guided imagery and music. These experiences can help patients cope with their diagnosis and treatment, as well as promote overall well-being.

music therapyThrough the use of relaxation exercises, patients can reduce their stress, anxiety and fear. Our music therapist can help patients to develop stress management techniques for use in the hospital as well as at home. Through music therapy sessions, patients can reduce perceived pain and can learn to develop pain reduction techniques. In addition, music therapy addresses psychological issues related to illness and treatment.

Music therapy is oriented toward supporting the experiences of the person as a whole, and helping each person to find solutions to their own problems, creatively. In general, the music therapist works with patients to address one or more of the following areas:

  • exploring and working through emotions experienced during diagnosis and treatment
  • finding meaning in the cancer experience
  • reviewing one's life
  • developing individualized stress management techniques
  • developing music that can be used at home to promote calm

Everyone can benefit from music therapy. There are no specific criteria for receiving this therapy. Patients do not need to have previous music training or skills. Sessions are tailored to the individual needs of patients and can address multiple issues. These sessions usually last from 30 to 60 minutes and are available in the patient's treatment area.

Music therapy is provided for patients of the Karnell Cancer Center by a board certified music therapist and licensed professional counselor. For more information or to schedule a music therapy session, call
1-800-789-PENN (7366).

New! Download Music Therapy Guide from Joan Karnell Supportive Care Services

Art Therapy

art therapyArt therapy is the creative use of art materials for self-expression and reflection. The artwork becomes the visual representation of a patient, caregiver, or family member's experiences. At the core of art therapy is the belief that the creative process involved in the making of art is healing and life enhancing.

When words are not enough, art therapy allows patients and caregivers the opportunity to creatively deal with the impact of a cancer diagnosis. Patients, caregivers, and family members may choose to cultivate an ongoing project with a particular final product in mind, or may opt to use the process of working with the materials to communicate their emotional and psychological experiences.

Addressing issues related to illness, treatment, and emotional well-being, art therapy techniques can be tailored to meet the needs of patients during treatment at the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital, or during an individually scheduled session. Through art therapy, patients can be supported in addressing issues which may include:

  • changes in body image due to treatment
  • the management of pain and other physical symptoms
  • the emotional release of anxiety
  • the loss of a sense of well-being
  • coming to terms with feelings of loss and isolation
  • the ability to cope with illness

Fundamentally, engaging in artistic expression encourages an ongoing awareness of personal wellness, while providing emotional and psychological support for the patient and family. Additionally, prior experience with art materials or artistic technique is not necessary.

Any patient, regardless of age or diagnosis can benefit from the positive aspects of artistic expression. Sessions are tailored to the individual needs of the patient, caregiver, or family member, and typically range in duration from 30 to 60 minutes.

For more information, call 1-800-789-PENN (7366).

Walkabout: Mindfulness Based Art Therapy

walkaboutWalkabout: Looking In, Looking Out, now in its third year, continues in 2013 at Joan Karnell Supportive Care Services at Pennsylvania Hospital. Walkabout combines mindfulness skills training with easy mindful walking outside, the use of digital photography and collage-making. The program is currently funded by the Kelly Heflin Foundation.

The program is open to persons in active or post treatment for cancer and their care partners and meets for 8 sessions on Wednesdays from 4:30-7pm. The program has seen an increase in active participation by young and older adults in active treatment or recently post-treatment. Care partners are welcome to participate.

Participants in this innovative mindfulness-based art therapy program have evaluated the program highly. "Focusing on art-making really calmed me and made me totally forget I was battling cancer. " Another female participant spoke to the combined benefits of creative expression and learning mindfulness meditation in the program, "Walkabout opened the door for me to tap into my creativity as a true means of healing... seeing life through the camera lens and looking inside myself through the group and solo meditation."

The group size for Walkabout is 7-10 and a wonderful creative camaraderie develops at the art table: "I loved meeting the wonderful people in our group and sharing our common journey."

"Collage is a user friendly creative activity and like an engaging puzzle that brings a sense of satisfaction when completed" says Caroline Peterson, LPC who leads the program "It's an accessible art form that can be both playful and reflective. Within the first few sessions, participants find their own personal collage language, the source material being their own photographs from the walkabout and other art materials provided in the program."

One spouse, unaccustomed to art therapy, said "I found it rewarding to be creative in a new way," adding his appreciation for "the ability to work freely." Another was intrigued with the process, "the use of the camera to view the world with the artistic expression of collage was helpful, physically and intellectually."

Walkabout includes introductory training in mindfulness meditation and participants are given a meditation CD to use for home practice which participants have found a benefit of the program: "The meditation was very useful for me, helped me center on breathing and calmness;" another participant reported that "this is a very good program. It is relaxing. The mindfulness practices can be applied anytime, anywhere."

To enroll or for more information, contact Caroline Peterson, 215-829-8700 or email

Integrative Symptom Management


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Need an appointment? Request one online 24 hours/day, 7 days/week or call 800-789-PENN (7366) to speak to a referral counselor.

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