Description and evaluation of arts therapies practice with adults suffering from depression in the UK
Zubala, A. (2013) Description and evaluation of arts therapies practice with adults suffering from depression in the UK, no. 364.
This thesis contributes new knowledge to the field of arts therapies and their relevance in the treatment of depression in adults. The global burden of depression means that available treatments do not address all areas within the complexity of the condition and arts therapies may potentially present a relevant alternative by offering opportunities for non-verbal expression and exploration of creativity. Literature up to date does not offer comprehensive enough description of arts therapies practice and therefore establishing of credible evidence has not been possible. This thesis addresses the gap by exploring the nature of arts therapies practice and its value in the treatment of depression. The research consists of two phases: phase 1 provides a description of arts therapies practice with depression in the UK based on data collected from 395 survey respondents, while phase 2 evaluates group brief art therapy for adults experiencing mild to moderate depression. The project employs mixed methodologies within a creative research design incorporating surveys, interviews, arts-based inquiry and a pilot clinical study to examine multiple perspectives and offer findings meaningful to diverse audience. This project establishes that depression is a common condition among arts therapists' clients while some of the practitioners consider work with depression their main area of professional interest. It further finds that the therapists address depression through the use of humanistic, psychodynamic and integrative approaches and discovers that certain areas of the therapy process have particular relevance in the treatment of depression (e.g. time, group work, motivation, reconnecting). The pilot clinical study concludes with decrease of depression levels and increase of subjectively perceived wellbeing in all participants immediately after nine sessions of art therapy and in the follow-up. Participants' experiences, researcher's observations and arts-based reflections on the therapy process highlight the potential value of arts therapies in areas relating to, among others: connection and sharing, awareness of others and self, sense of achievement, self-expression and regain of meaning. The findings are integrated in the final discussion, which proposes a set of concepts particularly relevant to the treatment of adult depression through arts therapies. This research provides the first comprehensive description of arts therapists' work with depression in the UK and confirms the potential of this practice to be effective, which is relevant to health professionals and may lead to increased involvement of arts therapies in mainstream healthcare. The particular value of this project lies in shaping the basis for further explorations in the form of larger RCTs as well as demonstrating relevance and superiority of creative research designs in evaluating arts therapies.