Art Therapy Benefits Patients with Severe Depression


The research carried by the Christina Blomdahl, a licensed occupational therapist and art therapist, involved 43 patients who were suffering from severe to moderately severe depression. The patients were exposed to a manual-based art therapy. The control group consisted of 36 participants suffered from the same medical condition. Most of the patients were unable to work as they were severely depressed. 

The participants were received different combinations of medication, psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and physical therapy. The individual art therapy was conducted by the well-trained therapist in psychiatry or primary care, which involved a relaxation exercise in the beginning, followed by creative art making with crayons and water colors.

Christina Blomdahl said, “They followed the manual I had created in order to ensure that it was scientific, but although everyone was given the same theme to go on, the patients responded very differently to the exercises. The materials were simple, allowing people to doodle and feel free to express themselves the way they wanted to, and then they would talk about the picture and its significance to the participant.”

After ten hour-long treatment, the researchers could find an average improvement of almost five steps on a rating scale. Significant changes were noted in anxiety, sleep, ability to take the initiative and emotional involvements when compared to control group. A significant leap that involved a considerable change in everyday life, and sometimes it might also mean that a patient can return to work.

According to the Christina Blomdahl, the pictures drawn by the patient served as a mirror, so they felt like they were meeting themselves. It allowed the patients to see and make discoveries about themselves, and return to their healthy life. “Painting pictures based on themes and discussing the pictures with the therapist promotes self-reflection and brain stimulation that takes place outside of the conscious mind,” she added.

Art therapy facilitated the improvement in patient’s depression symptoms. The researchers hope for the future use of art therapy in the healthcare system. Whether it is less or more scrapped by psychiatry, but it is a significant study in this area that could lead to more people being trained in it and the method being used again, Christina Blomdahl concluded.