Creative Arts in Counselling and Mental Health

Creative Arts in Counselling and Mental Health

This excellent, and mainly Australian, book was published a few years ago, which is very exciting, as I co-wrote one of the chapters, with my colleagues psychologist Robert King (who also co-edited the whole book) and social worker and psychotherapist Tom O'Brien. These amazing humans also assisted a group of art therapists (including myself) establish an art therapy program at University of Queensland in 2004, in the School of Medicine. 

We recently graduated another talented pod of art therapists, who will go on to do fantastic work. The Masters of Mental Health - Art Therapy program has been in existence now for 15 years. So its particularly cool to have this collaborative work, and this chapter in particular, in the public domain.

The chapter in question is a 'systematic review of art therapy outcomes research'; which basically means we surveyed already published art therapy outcomes studies (where the focus was on the proven benefits of art therapy) to be able to make a more general claim about the effectiveness of art therapy.

This is exciting, as I believe it provides the most substantial documented evidence so far that art therapy is effective.  This is very important to those of us in the art therapy world, and to anyone who includes creative activities in their therapy practice. And most important of all, for potential clients who are wondering if art therapy has been proven to be effective. 

We can now say that art therapy is as effective as other forms of psychotherapy. (And yes, psychotherapy has also been proven to be effective). Of course, art therapy also has the advantage of introducing creativity into the therapeutic space, thereby producing an 'enriched environment'. 

An enriched environment is a space in which individuals have many opportunities for activity that stimulate the brain and nervous system, and is thought to be optimum for growth and emotional regulation. As we approach another New Year and decade, maybe lets try to focus on seeking out, and even creating, enriched environments, where we know human beings will not just survive, but thrive. Happy New Year!