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Primary-School-Based Art Therapy: Exploratory Study of Changes in Children’s Social, Emotional and Mental Health

20 October 2019

Brand New Research Published By Alex Mcdonald, Sue Holttum and Nicolas St J. Drey



In this article we describe a research study which aimed to explore if teachers and children perceived any changes to children’s social, emotional or mental health difficulties after the children attended art therapy within their primary school. We were also interested in learning from the children if they thought anything in particular had been helpful about their art therapy sessions in order to inform future research and the development of this particular approach to art therapy.

The art therapists asked the class teachers to fill out a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires at the beginning and end of art therapy. The class teachers also attended a focus group so we could learn more about their general observations of the children before and after attending art therapy. The art therapists also interviewed the children to learn if they perceived any changes since coming to art therapy and if so, what in particular they thought had helped bring about these changes.

We found that statistical analysis of the questionnaire scores mostly agreed with what the teachers and children said and that there was generally some positive change to the social, emotional and mental health difficulties the children had been experiencing. The teachers also let us know that some of the children still had residual problems. The children emphasised that making and thinking about art along with expressing, thinking and learning about thoughts and feelings had been particularly helpful. It was also important to the children that the sessions were fun.

In conclusion, the teachers and children in this primary school perceived art therapy as helpful to the children and that it merits further research in order to develop the approach used by the art therapists and to see if it is effective in larger research studies including more children, schools and art therapists.


This article by Alex Mcdonald, Sue Holttum and Nicolas St J. Drey has been made FREE ACCESS until 31st December 2019 here

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