EFFECTS OF ART THERAPY WITH PRISON INMATES: A FOLLOW-UP STUDY
Volume 33, Issue 3, 2006, Pages 188-198 – THE ARTS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY
David Gussak Ph.D.
A pilot study conducted to measure the effects of art therapy with prison inmates (Gussak, 2004) demonstrated marked improvement in mood. The results of this study encouraged a quantitative follow-up study the following year. This study used the Formal Elements Art Therapy Scale (FEATS) and the Beck Depression Inventory-Short Form (BDI-II) as pre and post-test assessments to assess the effects that art therapy had on an adult male prison population, specifically on decreasing depression and improving socialization skills. A control group pre-test/post-test design was implemented for this study. An experimental group members attended group art therapy for eight weeks, one session per week. They also completed the assessments prior to, and at the end of the sessions. A control group did not receive the services but still completed the pre and post-test assessments during the same amount of time. The changes in BDI-II scores and the scores of all 14 categories of the FEATS from pretest to posttest (i.e., post-test score – pre-test score) were calculated and the differences were analyzed using independent-sample t tests to find differences between the experimental and control groups. The BDI-II results supported the assumption that art therapy was effective in reducing depression in the adult male inmates. The results from the FEATS, however, did not yield supportive data. Thus, although the art therapy was effective with the experimental population, the quantitative results were mixed. This article concludes with a case vignette that supports the notion that art therapy was effective, and an explanation on why the FEATS may not have been as effective a measurement tool in this particular study.