Touch Drawing with Teens and Young Adults in Late Stage Cancer – Gloria Simoneaux

As a close friend and classmate of Deb’s at Cooper Union, I experienced the power of Touch Drawing personally. I felt that it could be a vital process to share with others. I have used it in my work as an Expressive Arts Therapist since 1981. I began facilitating Touch Drawing at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, when I was directing an art program at their Children’s Cancer Research Institute. I worked with pediatric oncology patients, many of whom were facing the last stages of their lives. Adolescents and young adults responded on a deep level to Touch Drawing. The process put them face to face with their deeper selves. It enabled them to bring to the surface parts of themselves that had previously remained hidden. It was revealing and therapeutic for the patients and their families. Teens and young adults who are dealing with cancer are vulnerable and filled with fear. My experience is that they have a great willing-ness to explore their depths. Touch Drawing was invaluable while working with this population.

I have also worked with adult cancer survivors with remarkable results. The information revealed through Touch Drawing was often shocking to the patients and their caregivers. People have experienced unusual breakthroughs using the Touch Drawing technique. My experience is that Touch Drawing taps into the individual on deep levels. It is a very important addition to the Expressive Arts. Scroll down to see four Touch Drawings with their stories.

‘Journey’ This twenty three year old person did a lot of exploring with Touch Drawing. This is one of his last images.

By an eighteen year old person. This is the last image she created before she died. After she created it, she crumbled it up and threw it in the trash. It had upset her. I later retrieved it.

‘Lonesome’ by a twenty year old three months before he died.


The man who did this image had been given a 1% chance of survival 30 years prior. When I gave him the Touch Drawing materials, he said “I don’t know what to do.” I suggested he just move his hands on the paper. He gave that a try. When he pulled the drawing off the board he gasped and said “Oh my God, that is my tumor!”

Gloria Simoneaux is founding director of Harambee Arts (www.harambeearts.org), an expressive arts organization and training program based in sub-Saharan Africa, Nepal, Dominica and Haiti. Harambee Arts is designed to serve children and women globally who have been traumatized by illness, poverty, violence, trafficking, incarceration, autistic spectrum disorder and other crises. Gloria taught Expressive Arts to counselors in Nairobi as a Fulbright scholar in 2008, affiliated with the Kenya Association of Professional Counselors. She is the Founder of DrawBridge: An Arts Program for Homeless Children, now in its 33rd year, and has worked extensively with pediatric oncology patients in San Francisco hospitals. She is a consultant with Save the Children, Railway International and other NGO’s and has taught locally at CIIS and JFK Universities. She also teaches at the University of Nairobi, and Connect, a family therapy institute in Zimbabwe. Gloria recently completed her second Fulbright fellowship with the Ministry of Social Welfare in Dominica, a tiny island in the Eastern Caribbean that was 90% destroyed by Hurricane Maria in 20017.

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