Befriend the body
after breast cancer.

Case study / 2020

Art Therapist Marka Kondrateva.

Duration: 1 session per week. Online. 10 sessions.

The session's duration 2 hours.

The work is built on combining work during sessions with homework (journaling).

The therapy process includes creating photographs of body parts, drawings, and collages, as well as regularly listening to guided imagery or meditations before starting to create art products. These are body scans and modifications for different somatic spaces. At each session, we analyze art products created in a week and flow into a new topic for research. The effect of this work is cumulative, it grows and deepens, increases body awareness, interoception, and proprioception, and big amount of suppressed emotions and body memory processed. 10 sessions are the required minimum.

About the client: Mia (name is changed), 39 years old. The USA. She emigrates at the age of 30. She had a daughter(early teen) and a husband. He abused her psychologically and financially. She was diagnosed with depression and took medicine. At the moment of our work, she was in a recovery process after mastectomy. She wanted to start her own business, be independent but at the moment she was a housewife.

Client's expectations:

Connect the real image of the body and the image that exists in Mia's head. She describes the shock of not recognizing herself, which occurs when she meets her reflection in a shop window, during a walk. She had always had poor awareness of her body, but it worsened after the treatment of the disease, her body changed, and her weight increased (+15 kg).

During the cancer treatment, to protect herself, Mia distanced herself even more from the body, the part of the chest with the breast was removed from her inner body image. The surgeon did an excellent job of restoration and asked the client's permission to show the work to his colleagues. Mia said, "This is not mine." The client has no emotional feedback on the manipulation of her new breast. Mia avoiding to look at a new breast in the mirror. She always wears a bra and doesn't take it out. (Later you can see that in her collage).

Mia said that she wants to come back "home", to her body.

The result we reached in 10 sessions:

At the beginning of the work, Mia was more interested in photographs, she wanted to learn how to photograph herself and perceive her reflection in the mirror. In the process of work, Mia paid more attention to the importance and significance of the internal state and its evolution. Recognizing her reflection and photographs turned out to be secondary. Mia noticed that she began to move and walk differently. She began to sit differently, no longer slouches, and does not twist her legs as before. She recognizes herself in the mirror.

Shame, suppression, and devaluation of femininity, and uniqueness were worked through. Mia went beyond the stereotypical image of femininity. For the first time in 5 years, she began to speak frankly with her husband about what she wants, what she likes or dislikes. Previously, she was ashamed to talk about her feelings with loved ones. Everything happened in her head or in a book. Mia began to realize the psychological and financial violence in which she is. She stopped feeling guilty about something, not taking it upon herself. She turned to a special US agency for help that provides various types of support to women in situations of violence.

Art works gallery
I briefly describe 10 online sessions from my 'Body Landscapes' program.
Open the gallery below to read a description of each work.

The holistic approach allows me not only to work with a specific request or symptom that a person comes with but also to build a holistic, healthier vision of life. The multimodal approach helps us reach the core of the problem in the body-mind continuum. During one session, I combine guided imagery, mindful movement, photos of the body parts, drawings, and paintings. It perfectly works online when my clients have to be more independent in healing. I believe this program could be helpful for everyone with body issues.

First and foremost, photography provides us with valuable insights into the human body. The client confronts his body and befriends it like a stranger, practicing a kind and loving vision without judgment. A client can communicate with the body directly, get access to suppressed information, release it, reflect, and make a new sense of old situations. I perceive my physical body as a distinct individual. The client very quickly sees and feels the difference between external and internal, step by step overcomes this inconsistency, and becomes more conscious and whole. Hidden information emerged in a symbolic form. It makes it easier to cope with unknown emotions and transform them, finding a new ecological way for a happier and healthier life.

The client learns to translate information from inner symbolic language into real-life context. This helps a client become more aware of their situation, develop self-trust, become more proactive, and take responsibility for their actions. It also encourages us to be more involved in the process.

In the absence of connections with the body or body parts, the client owns them through a photograph, splices tactilely the parts, and learns a new body image. The client concentrates close attention on her corporeality and unseen information. Kind attention and energy begin to saturate the forgotten and rejected inner parts. Long-term therapy gives us great results.

The program combined different activities
Self-photography of the body by the client
Guided visualizations for exploring the somatic space at each session
Mindful movements and noticing felt sense
Drawing somatic symptoms and associations from photographs
Drawing with closed eyes
Drawing yourself looking in the mirror
Made on