ART AS THERAPY: AN EFFECTIVE WAY OF PROMOTING POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH?
Author: Deirdre Heenana
The aim of this study is to evaluate the contribution that creative arts can play in promoting positive mental health and well-being. The research is based on a case study of an innovative art therapy programme delivered by a community-based mental health organisation in Northern Ireland, as part of a supported recovery programme. The study reported here explored the experiences and perceptions of the service users through in-depth interviews and focus groups. The art as therapy course was credited with improvements in self-esteem and self-confidence. It provided a safe space for reflection on mental health issues. Participants described the programme as cathartic and a springboard for engagement in a wide range of further projects. It is concluded that this type of project which addresses mental health issues in a supportive, positive, non-clinical environment can encourage and facilitate empowerment and recovery through accessible creative programmes. However, to date these programmes are time-limited, small-scale and marginal to the approach adopted by statutory service providers.