No Art for Schizophrenics

Schizophrenia patients do not respond to art therapy

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(RxWiki News) While previous studies have suggested that art therapy may improve schizophrenia, new research demonstrates no measurable mental functioning increase for schizophrenic patients.

Past research has been scarce and vague at best, and thus centers for mental health throughout the U.K. came together to test the effects of this creative therapy, and discovered no measurable difference from standard care.

"Discuss treatment options for schizophrenia with your doctor.  "

Lead author Michael Crawford, M.D., of the Imperial College London’s Centre for Mental Health, and colleagues explain, “Referring people with established schizophrenia to group art therapy as delivered in this trial did not improve global functioning, mental health, or other health related outcomes.”

“As delivered in this trial” meaning in 90-minute group sessions scheduled once a week for an average of 12-months, following recommendations from the British Association of Art Therapists. The patients were given arts and crafts materials and urged to “express themselves freely.”

Therapists acted as empathetic support for the artists, offering advice and encouragement and did not make it practice to use the work to analyze the patient.

Dr. Crawford and his associates believed the treatment would “enhance self expression, improve emotional health, and help people develop better interpersonal functioning;” however, when assessed at 24-months, no differences were found between those using supplemental art therapy and those who were not.

The research analyzed the general health, mental health, and adaptability of 417 patients with schizophrenia, 140 participating in art therapy in conjunction with standard care, 140 engaging in non-art-related activity groups, and 137 receiving treatment as usual. The non-art sessions encouraged patients to pursue various activities apart from arts and crafts including DVDs, board games, and visits to local coffee shops, meeting on the same schedule as art therapy.

The main outcome the researchers sought was improvements in global functioning, or ones ability to adjust to their surroundings in social, occupational, and psychological contexts, as well as relief from schizophrenic symptoms.

Further, measurements of social functioning, mental wellbeing, health-related quality of life, satisfaction with care, group attendance, and adherence to medication were also assessed with accredited techniques.

There were no significant differences in outcome measures from art therapy and standard care, yet non-art activity groups relieved symptoms of schizophrenia more than either.

“Although we cannot rule out the possibility that group art therapy benefits people with schizophrenia who are motivated to use this treatment, our findings suggest that it does not lead to improved patient outcomes when offered to most people with this disorder,” the authors conclude.

The Huntingdon research ethics committee approved this study, funded through the National Institute of Health published on February 28, 2012 in BMJ.

Last Updated:
February 28, 2012