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


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.


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.


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.

Release of manuals and findings: therapeutic dance interventions for breast cancer

Dancing with Health is multi-site pilot study that aimed to evaluate a sixteen week dance programme for women in recovery from breast cancer across five European countries. Edge Hill University led the UK pilot which was delivered over 2019-2020.

The study has now released two manuals on it’s website, which cover the rationale, design, delivery protocols and findings of the programme. The website also has training videos for practitioners who are interested in delivering the sessions themselves. This study will be of interest to dance and dance movement therapy practitioners as well as health professionals interested in the physical and psychological aspects of breast cancer recovery.

A publication is currently underway, which will further explore the statistical findings from the primary outcome data in relation to anthropometric and fitness measures next to cancer related quality of life.

This project was funded by the Erasmus+Sport programme of the European Union

E-Arts for Covid Blues: online workshop

ESRC Festival of Social Science

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Covid-19 and lockdown have affected people psychologically in different ways such as struggling with stress, anxiety, depression and loss.

In response, the Arts for the Blues team are offering a free online creative psychological therapeutic session for working with these problems, as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. We will use simple creative tools such as movement, drawing or writing as well as talking and the session will involve small and large group work. The workshop will last 90 minutes (10:00-11.30) followed by a 30 min break and then we are reconvening for a one hour group discussion (12:00-13:00). Private space, internet connection and basic art materials are essential. No previous artistic experience is required.

The workshop is intended to be beneficial for participants and could be mildly therapeutic, although it is not offered as therapy. It will also give space to reflect. You will asked to carefully check your eligibility against the inclusion/exclusion criteria before you attend. 

As the sessions are part of the larger research study called Arts for the Blues, we intend to gather data from this event to further the study. This will involve the completion of some online questionnaires. Full information will be provided nearer the time and you will be asked for your consent to this.

To book please follow the link here booking information link

Engage: Performance and the Maternal

We invite you to join ENGAGE….conversations conceived across performance studies and the maternal. A series of online forums which consider, through different artistic and academic perspectives, how maternal performance helps us to understand the lived condition of motherhood. Each forum responds to a themed-provocation (question) and features a panel of guest speakers plus a Q & A.

Emma Perris and Prof Vicky Karkou from Edge Hill University will be amongst several presenters on the forum titled Health, Policy and Impact – Maternal Performance Matters on 3rd November. This session will ask ‘What are the pressing questions for maternal health and policy? How might performance help us to explore those questions?’ Emma and Vicky will present their adapted version of a new creative psychotherapy, Arts for the Blues for postnatal depression as part of Emma’s PhD study. Other Speakers: Prue ThimblebyHelena Walsh,  Michelle Hartney, Leah Salter

Book this free online event by clicking below

Performance and the Maternal is an 18 month research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council delivered by Dr Emily Underwood-Lee and Georgina Biggs at the University of South Wales(Cardiff) and Dr Lena Simic at Edge Hill University (Ormskirk).

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