Release of a new Arts for the Blues publication!

The Arts for the Blues team are delighted to announce their third publication which presents the twelve session creative psychotherapy model for depression

This article details the approach taken by the team to inform the model and presents the eight key ingredients that underpin the therapy. 

Omylinska-Thurston, J., Karkou, V., Parsons, A.S., Nair, K., Haslam, S., Dubrow-Marshall,  L., Starkey, J., Thurston, S., Dudley-Swarbrick, I. and Sharma, S (2020). Arts for the Blues: the development of a new evidence-based creative group psychotherapy for depression. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research https://doi.org/10.1002/capr.12373

Introduction

Depression affects many adults in the UK, often resulting in referral to primary care mental health services (e.g. improving access to psychological therapies, IAPT). CBT is the main modality for depression within IAPT, with other approaches offered in a limited capacity. Arts psychotherapies are rarely provided despite their attractiveness to clients. However, the recent dropout rate of 64% within IAPT suggests that clients’ needs are not being fully met. Therefore, in order to expand clients’ choice we developed a new creative psychological therapy integrating evidence‐based approaches with arts psychotherapies.

Method

A three‐level approach was used: (a) thematic synthesis of client‐identified helpful factors in evidence‐based approaches for depression and in arts psychotherapies; (b) studio practice exploring Cochrane Review findings on arts psychotherapies for depression; (c) pilot workshops for clients with depression and therapists.

Findings and Discussion

Eight key ingredients for positive therapy outcomes were identified: encouraging active engagement, learning skills, developing relationships, expressing emotions, processing at a deeper level, gaining understanding, experimenting with different ways of being and integrating useful material. These ingredients were brought together as Arts for the Blues for clients with depression: a 12‐session evidence‐based pluralistic group psychotherapy integrating creative methods as well as talking therapy.

Conclusion

The evidence‐based foundation, creative content and pluralistic nature of this new approach aligned with eight client‐identified key ingredients for positive therapy outcomes make it a promising therapy option that can be adapted to individual therapy. Implications include consideration for NICE approval as an additional therapy for depression.

The Arts and COVID-19: A Time of Danger and Opportunity?

In this blog piece for the Institute of Social Responsibility, Professor Vicky Karkou prompts us to think about the revitalising and resourcing opportunities that the arts can offer us in this time of danger.

Darren Henley (2020), the CEO of the Arts Council, refers to the pandemic as: “the most serious challenge to (the) existence” (p.1) of the arts industry since the second world war”.

With the closure of all cinemas, theatres, live music venues, studios and dancing spaces, the arts industry in the UK faces a very uncertain future. So much so that Arts Council England have now redirected all its grant funds to an Emergency Response Fund for individuals and organisations who will be most at risk from the fall-out from the pandemic.

While this is happening, people in lockdown are faced with the need to connect through the arts in ways that have not been present before. From online dance, music and theatre performances (e.g. English National Ballet, Albert Royal Hall and Hampstead Theatre) to interactive sessions of how to draw and paint, how to dance or how to write poetry (see Royal Academy, Dancing Alone Together, Poetry Society); the internet is filling with options of things to ‘attend to’ or to ‘participate with’ whilst at home.

In addition to online options, dancing in the streets and in court yards, playing music in front of one’s house or singing from one’s window are new ways of connecting through the arts that are surfacing because of the pandemic; not only in the UK but all around the world.

At EHU’s Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing we are undertaking research projects on the contribution of the arts to one’s wellbeing.  For example, through the ‘Arts for the Blues’ project (Karkou et al in preparation; Omylinska-Thurston et al 2019; Parsons et al 2019; Haslam et al 2019) we have found therapeutic benefits in the use of creativity and the arts for those struggling with loneliness and depression. In the current lockdown situation, this is relevant to all of us.

Remaining active through arts-making, learning new skills, or engaging in mindful (or not) indoors movement, all have the potential to vitalise us.  Finding opportunities to express feelings that are difficult to talk about through singing, drawing or moving in the presence of or with our loved ones over the phone, zoom or Skype, may be ways of strengthening and resourcing ourselves.

It may also be the time to stop, think, reflect and re-focus, making plans for new ways of being that are more relational and certainly more meaningful and rewarding.   It is possible, that with appropriately co-ordinated activities that combine research, public and personal initiatives, the arts can make contributions that offer re-vitalising experiences for all of us.  So let’s stay in – and dance!

 Professor Vicky Karkou is a Professor of Arts & Wellbeing at Edge Hill University and Director of the Research Centre. For more information about Vicky and her publications please visit https://sites.edgehill.ac.uk/rcaw/members/