evaluating the impact…?

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My clinical training builds on considerable experience of working with children, young people and adults in the context of rights, participation, policy and evaluation. My main focus and expertise as an art psychotherapist is with young people and adults around mental health and emotional well-being. I have worked with men in a psychiatric care setting offering one to one and group art therapy where I contributed to multi disciplinary meetings and developing care plans for patients. Currently I’m working in a Children’s Hospital where I run an art therapy group for young people with chronic medical conditions. This builds on previous work running one to one and group art therapy with children, young people and their families in a hospital setting.

It is interesting that there is little UK art therapy literature relating directly to working with ‘sick children’. My interests are also around researching the effectiveness of art therapy and generating an evidence base which connects with my previous work where establishing and evaluating outcomes for organisations and young people’s participation was a focus.

It’s clear to me as a clinical practitioner that art therapy can play a role in developing a sense of self, control, giving a voice and reclaiming a narrative. For example, via art making and the relationship with the therapist a child’s fears and vulnerability can be held and anxieties expressed; thereby reducing the isolation and loneliness that can accompany living with a physical illness or a ‘body that doesn’t work properly’. However, in the absence of an evidence base or evaluation to capture the impact and outcomes this work can neither inform the discipline of art therapy nor demonstrate change or benefits to clients. In the current political and economic climate I believe art therapists need to think, act and write with a political purpose in mind and this includes researching the effectiveness of art therapy and generating an evidence base.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREI am interested in exploring and understanding the role art therapy practice plays in bringing about change for clients and how we measure and assess that. I am also interested in exploring further how to work with a client as an ‘expert’ (on their own experiences; their bodies, illness, diagnosis) and the potential for engaging them in decision-making about their treatment and practical involvement in their own care as well as educating medical professionals and policy makers. I am aware of tensions around establishing and monitoring outcomes in art therapy. For example, around holding onto the psychodynamic frame when working with a young person with diabetes whose presenting problems might be ‘blood sugar chaos’ or needle phobia; and parents/ doctors are looking for practical help from the art therapist in managing specific problems and/or alleviating distress. There is a need for this to be thought about more in terms of how presenting problems directly and clearly link to kinds of art therapy interventions and short and long term outcomes. If my client’s control of his diabetes does not improve for example, how would I evaluate the impact and outcomes of art therapy?

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