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'Using Museums For Art Psychotherapy' Initiative in Gloucestershire Shortlisted For AHP Award

15 February 2020

The ‘Using museums for art psychotherapy’ initiative at Gloucestershire Health and Care (previously 2gether) NHS Foundation Trust has been shortlisted for ‘The Guardian award for AHPs working with people who have mental health problems’ in the 2020 United Kingdom Advancing Healthcare Awards.

Museum in the Park, Stroud.

The Trust runs art psychotherapy groups for adults with complex mental health difficulties in local museums, using the museum exhibitions within the therapeutic process. According to Ali Coles, Art Psychotherapist at the Trust, ‘The work drew on research that people ‘see themselves’ in museum objects, and that reflecting on our responses to objects can tell us something about ourselves. For example, an object can evoke powerful emotions, or symbolise an aspect of our current or past experiences. We were also encouraged by evidence that museum settings can inspire creativity and that a non-clinical space could help people to feel more connected to each other and their local community, and less ‘set apart’ by their mental health difficulties’.

The museum-based groups have been evaluated through outcome measures and reflective interviews with the participants and the findings from the pilot group have been published in the International Journal of Art Therapy here. Art psychotherapists who have been involved in delivering the groups (Ali Coles, Fiona Harrison and Saira Todd) have also published research into their own experience of working in this way, and how it ‘flexes the frame’ of more conventional art psychotherapy practice here.

Service users have reported that the museum setting helps them to reflect on feelings and experiences, facilitates interaction between group members, encourages independence, fosters motivation and creativity and helps them to feel valued and connected with the world outside mental health services. As one participant put it: ‘You wouldn’t necessarily have thought that pulling objects out of museum boxes and wandering around looking at artefacts would help you feel better or make progress in recovery, but you would be surprised… It allows you to think outside the box, which in turn enables you to see things from a different perspective. You get the chance to see things that you wouldn't normally consider relating back to your own life, and this gives you a new insight into your experiences and thoughts and feelings’. 


Find out more about
Art Therapy in Museums and Galleries please click here