Project background

Project background

Arts for the Blues is a collaborative research project between Edge Hill University, University of Salford, University of Cambridge and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and encompasses academics and practitioners from across a range of disciplines including performance arts, literature, dance movement psychotherapy, art psychotherapy, wellbeing, health and social care as well as NHS clinical and counselling psychologists and psychotherapists.

The team have developed a new evidence based creative psychological therapy for depression which has been piloted as experiential workshops both at Edge Hill University and with staff and service users in Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

The project developed in response to research and findings which point to a need for a helpful and alternative model of treatment for depression in the UK.  IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) is the main provider of psychological therapy for adults in the NHS, however recent findings identified that approximately 43% of clients drop out therapy (NHS Digital 2016) indicating that a lot of people to do not find current interventions helpful.

Whilst the standardised measures used by the NHS to measure therapeutic change may be useful, empirical research has suggested that the client’s individual perception of what is helpful will have the biggest impact on change in therapy (Bohart & Tallman, 1999). To understand how therapeutic services can be improved, the team has conducted a thematic synthesis of 76 articles referring to helpful factors in the treatment of depression. The research spans across a range of NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) therapeutic interventions including CBT, counselling for depression, psychodynamic and arts psychotherapies.

The research has resulted in the devising of a creative psychological therapy that encompasses movement, speech, visual arts and writing. The intervention includes activities focused on the connecting the arts with the body, experiencing and expressing emotions, sharing with others, working with insight and integrating useful material back to one’s life. More information is on our blog post ‘Workshop design and rationale’ or access our journal article from the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling  which details how the team developed the key active ingredients and the framework for a new pluralistic ‘meta-approach’ therapy for depression. This article also features an example of a group therapy workshop based on this new approach.

The intervention has been delivered three times at North West universities. The results of the first pilot can be read about here Arts for the Blues – a new creative psychological therapy for depression: a pilot workshop report

The intervention has also been delivered in community based mental health services in Merseyside, and with staff and service users from Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, the results of which will be published shortly.

Creativity is a key thread running through the project – not just within the research and design of the intervention, but within data collection, analysis and dissemination.  Indeed the project began under the name ‘Dancing the Blues’ a research project for which a key outcome was the devising of a touring performance using movement, creative wording and music in response to the research. In all interventions, diverse methods of data collection will be employed including qualitative (word and arts based) and quantitative means.

The project has now obtained funding from Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group to assess the feasibility of  implementing the intervention in wider NHS and community services. The funding also enables the team to conduct a twelve week therapeutic intervention. The team are also currently working towards an NIHR multi-site feasibility study.

This study is part of a wider range of interdisciplinary research projects under the remit of the Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing at Edge Hill University. This Centre focuses on collaborative research projects exploring how the arts can contribute to health and wellbeing.