Art therapy is an expressive therapy that uses a “creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being,” according to arttherapyblog.com.
Recent research from Christina Blomdahl, Ph.D., at the Sahlgrenska Academy found that after ten treatments, patients who experienced moderately severe or severe depression revealed significantly more improvement than subjects in a control group.
“The conclusion is that it was the art therapy that facilitated their improvement.”
About The Research
As part of the research, more than 40 patients with moderately severe or severe depression underwent manual-based art therapy, which was developed by Blomdahl. The control group included 36 subjects who suffered similarly from depression.
All subjects received different combinations of cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, and physical therapies, in addition to medication. The art therapy was conducted by a trained therapist in a psychiatric or primary care setting, and crayons and watercolors were used for the artistic creations, which were based on a theme.
According to Blomdahl, these tools allowed “people to doodle and feel free to express themselves the way they wanted to, and then they would talk about the picture and its significance to the participant.”
Following ten treatment sessions, patients had improved, on average, nearly five steps on a depression rating scale, which assessed life factors such as anxiety, sleep, and emotional involvement. Subjects in the control group, who had not participated in art therapy, exhibited “no definite change.”
According to Blomdahl, the picture the subject created “served as a mirror where you could see and make new discoveries about yourself, a bit like coming to life.”
She noted that even subjects who did not experience direct treatment benefits exhibited improvement and that the creation of theme-based pictures and discussion “promotes self-reflection and brain stimulation that takes place outside of the conscious mind.”
Blomdahl stated that due to evidence requirements, art therapy has been “more or less scrapped by psychiatry” but that this is “one of the largest studies that has been conducted in this area” and may “lead to more people being trained in it and the method being used again.”
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology