Stefanie Ryan, LMHC
Stefanie Ryan, LMHC
Stefanie Ryan joined the Cancer Center in 2006 as an expressive arts therapy intern from Lesley University. As Currently in the role of expressive arts therapist for the HOPES Program, Stefanie spends her time offering both adult and pediatric patients, as well as their family and friends, the opportunity to engage in a therapeutic art session, exploring the use of art materials for relaxation, stress reduction and coping through active art-making. She is also the program manager for Illuminations, which includes recruiting and maintaining relationships with local artists, chairing a monthly review committee meeting, as well as understanding the clinical impact of the visual arts in regards to creating a healing environment in the Cancer Center.
What makes you passionate about your job?Each day brings new challenges, new experiences and new opportunities to build relationships with patients and their families, which makes for an exciting and dynamic work environment. I enjoy being able to provide patients and their families with a creative outlet to share their stories, express their feelings, as well as the opportunity to help them discover an additional tools to help them cope with stress and anxiety related to one's their experience with serious illness.
What do you find challenging?Many patients and family members that I encounter haven't created art since elementary school, which doesn't always carry the memories of the most enjoyable art experience either. One of the challenges I face as an expressive arts therapist is helping people to understand that unlike art class, there's no "wrong or right or wrong" way to engage with the expressive art materials. The goal of an expressive arts session isn't necessarily to create a finished product or "completed picture/painting;" instead, expressive arts therapy focuses on the creative process, the exploration of art materials, as well as the therapeutic relationship with the expressive arts therapist.
What makes the Mass General Cancer Center special? The Cancer Center is special because it recognizes the importance of treating the whole person: mind, body, spirit, not just the presenting illness. I feel very fortunate to be able to work in an environment that supports not only the expressive arts, but also additional complementary therapies such as music therapy, acupuncture and massage. When working with patients, I routinely hear them say how well they feel supported by their care providers. and it's It's wonderful to know that patients feel more like members of a family or a community than simply a number within the Cancer Center.