The effectiveness of expressive arts therapies: A review of the literature

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Kim Dunphy,[1] Sue Mullane and Marita Jacobsson, Making Dance Matter, Victoria, Australia                                                                                                       


This article presents a systematic review of literature about the effectiveness of expressive arts therapies. Research about five therapy modalities: music; visual art; dance-movement; drama and writing was investigated for evidence of outcomes. This review documents the modest literature within the inclusion criteria of systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials from Australian literature (2002-2012) and international literature (2007-2012). Only two Australian authored articles, both from the field of music therapy, fitted selection criteria. Recurring issues with methodology included predominantly small samples (n from 10-1891, but largely clustered between 15 and 40) and lack of inclusion of follow up or longitudinal data. Much of the research is inconclusive, but there are sufficient findings of quality to indicate benefits of expressive arts therapies. Effectiveness is indicated for physical and psychological conditions including asthma, dementia, coping with cancer, terminal illness, depression, schizophrenia, stress, anxiety, emotional eating and Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Address for correspondence:
Kim Dunphy
Email: kimfdunphy@gmail.com