An interpretive description of the patterns of practice of arts therapists working with older people who have Dementia in the UK
Burns, A. (2009) An interpretive description of the patterns of practice of arts therapists working with older people who have Dementia in the UK, no. 323.
In recent years there has been growing interest in arts therapy work with older people who have dementia. This has happened despite a paucity of UK research and writing on the aims of practice. Furthermore, there is little knowledge about the professional background of practitioners, the client group, care settings, theories and methods underpinning their work. This qualitative mapping study employs a methodology from nursing called interpretive description (Thorne et al. 2004). Interpretive description advocates a pluralistic approach for understanding the complex dialogue between clinical and research knowledge. The research design involved thirty-one semi-structured interviews with arts therapists from art therapy, music therapy, dramatherapy and dance movement therapy, participant observations of thirteen care settings and formal and informal interviews with ten medical/care staff who work with the arts therapists. The descriptive map was analysed using template analysis (King, 1998) and was interpreted using an integrative interpretive analysis (Heidegger, 1927; Smith et al.1999) The findings suggest that many arts therapists are pioneers in terms of being the first from their profession to work in the care setting. Issues around the arts therapists being unheard and staying unheard relate to their newness within these established settings. In terms of therapy work, theory and practice were being adapted in order to accommodate the temporal nature of the work. Despite distinctions in the art form, the study found that there is reciprocity of experience in terms of the arts therapists' feelings about the work and some in-session practices. These united the disciplines beyond the norms of mainstream practice.