L3 - A Randomized controlled trial (RCT) of group based brief art therapyKevin Jones

Abstract of paper for TAoAT 2002 by Kevin Jones

The Government White Paper ‘The NHS: Modern, Dependable’ (1997)  proposed the research-based evaluation of psychotherapeutic methods widely used in the NHS. Within Evidence Based Practice (EBP) the RCT is seen as the research method that can most reliably establish a causal connection between a treatment and outcome.

The aim of this project was to conduct an RCT to evaluate the effects of brief art therapy on the quality of care and clinical outcome of mental health service users with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  The primary objective was to establish the possible incremental benefit of AT over a standard package of CMHT care.

Results indicated no significant change on a range of outcome measures assessing symptoms, interpersonal functioning and quality of life. There was, however, a trend toward increased self-esteem and decline of negative symptoms on two measures.

The paper will:

  • Describe and critically appraise the research design and results using EBP criteria.
  • Discuss the clinical, ethical and practical issues involved in conducting an RCT in art therapy.
  • Highlight issues of Race and Culture.
  • Discuss the implications of this project for future research into the effectiveness of art therapy.

The paper draws on the discussion to address wider issues about research and art therapy.

In particular we explore:

  • Ways in which research design affects the usual delivery of art therapy.
  • The sensitivity of the art therapy process to outcome measures.
  • Problems of recruitment and retention.
  • The development of art therapy outcome measures and quantitative analysis of imagery.
  • The impact of randomization on access to art therapy for particular client groups.
  • The role of art therapist as researcher.
  • The effect of research design upon issues of race and culture in the countertransference and art work.

The project provides valuable lessons for research in the continuing context of EBP. The positive trends from the project agree with indications from American RCT’s in art therapy. We aim to contribute to a dialogue about the development of an RCT design for art therapy.

K. Jones, (Presenter)  Lecturer in Art Psychotherapy Goldsmiths College London and Research Art Therapist, Oxleas NHS Mental Health Trust.

Prof. P.H. Richardson, Head of Psychology, Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust and Essex University, England.

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