Drs. Jan Taal

Coping cancer and chronic illness through imagery and artistic expression


For most people, cancer means a totally unexpected confrontation with their own mortality, leading them towards a most intimate meeting with themselves. There is no prescription which indicates how to handle this process which is so often shrouded in uncertainty. The use of imagery and artistic expression to access and enhance inner strength and resilience can be of great help. Expressing emotions and needs in any kind of artistic form – drawing, painting, sculpting, modelling, writing, singing, playing, movement and dance – facilitate resilience, may bring balance and a strengthened sense of autonomy and meaning, as well as a reduction in feel­ings of anxiety, stress, pain and depression. The many studies on the placebo effect also show that expectations –imagining ‘this pill helps’ – can alleviate and relieve physical symptoms. Humans possess an innate self-reinforcing capacity. Within neuropsychology the discovery of mirror-neurons has confirmed this central role played by the imagination. That which we imagine, paint, model or sing is represented and activated in our brain and this builds up new capabilities and behaviour. But in this kind of therapeutic work there are pitfalls and important points to take care of. In the lecture illustrations and examples of the different themes and approaches are presented, as well as the ‘Imagery Toolbox’, containing a great variety of imagery exercises and artistic material, especially developed to promote in a simple manner the mobilisation of the self-strengthening potential, in order to make it easily accessible for utilisation in the mainstream of psycho-oncology care.

Keywords: Imagery – visualization – art – resilience – Imagery Toolbox –toolbox –cancer- chronic illness


Jan Taal Drs (1949) is health care psychologist BIG NIP NVPO VvTP since 1980 and trainer-director of the School for Imagery in Amsterdam. Ever since his first therapeutic experience with imagery in 1978 imagery has been his passion. His extensive clinical experience has showed Jan that the image as psychic energy is the key in treatment and personal development. Besides his teaching  and therapeutic work Jan has been very active in the promoting of imagery and artistic expression in the field of psycho-oncology. In the attempt to make these easily accessible for those confronted with cancer or other chronic illness he developed the ‘Imagery Toolbox’ in order to make it easily accessible for utilisation in the mainstream of psychological care. Jan works and lives in Amsterdam and teaches in several countries in Europe, America and Asia.


Great to share the effective, empowering work with imagery. It’s my pleasure!

Previous work
Presented the work on many conferences. Keynote speaker in Canada, Italy, USA, Sweden, France, Pakistan, The Netherlands.

Two of the latest articles:
Taal, J. (2016). Coping with cancer through imagery and artistic expression. https://www.imaginatie.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Coping-with-cancer-through-imagery-and-artistic-expression.-J.Taal-12.11.2015-150dpi.pdf. In publication. Translation of the article in Tijdschrift Positieve Psychologie. nr. 2. april. 72-80.

Taal, J. The three stages of imagery. Psychosynthesis Quartely, march 2016. https://www.imaginatie.nl/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-Three-Stages-of-Imagery.-Jan-Taal.pdf

More on: https://www.imaginatie.nl/faculty/jan-taal/