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Supporting Research

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Creative Arts and Addiction Treatment

Benefits of art therapy and substance use Include; Bypassing defenses, promoting emotional expression, encouraging a spiritual recovery and fostering creativity.  

Holt, E., & Kaiser, D. H. (2009). The first step series: Art therapy for early substance abuse treatment [Electronic version]. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 36, 245-250.  

This article describes a protocol created for art therapy designed for the initial stages of substance abuse treatment.  The First Step Series (FSS) target denial for the eventual acceptance of lifestyle changes necessary for recovery.

Dream work and Art Therapy 

Benefits of combining dream work with art therapy include; Emotional release, self-empowerment, self-acceptance, creation of a tangible image to explore (client able to see inner and outer world at same time), and an opportunity to reframe the meaning of dream and apply to waking life. 

Chu, H., & Tien, H. (2014). The study of therapeutic effect of Hill's dream work in art therapy [Electronic version]. Procedia- Social and Behavioral Sciences, 113, 68-73.   

Research study exploring the benefits of combining art therapy with Hill's Dream Work Model. Does creating an image of a dream aid in self- exploration? 

Creative Arts in End of Life Care

1.    Benefits of art therapy in end of life care include; Providing opportunities for choice, exploring sense of self, creating legacy and closure, and emotional exploration and expression.  
Check out this article to explore further how visual arts can powerfully improve the quality of life for people with dementia and terminal illness.  

2.    Han, P., Kwan, M., Chen, D., Yusoff, S. Z., Chionh, H. L., Goh, J., & Yap, P. (2011, January 20). A Controlled Naturalistic Study on a Weekly Music Therapy and Activity Program on Disruptive and Depressive Behaviors in Dementia. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 30(6), 540-546. doi:10.1159/000321668 

This study touches on the increasing need to utilize non-pharmacological treatments, such as music therapy, occupational therapy, and structured activity programs, to treat behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) in persons with dementia (PWD). Music therapy has been proven to yield a significant reduction in activity disturbance, aggressiveness, and anxiety scores (using the Behavior Pathology in Alzheimer’s Disease Rating Scale [BEHAVE-AD]), as well as facilitate alert responses, increased social engagement, and increased participation in physical exercise, even in those with advanced dementia.

Emotional Insight and Regulation through Creative Arts

 1.    Forkosh, Jennifer and Drake, Jennifer E. (2017). Coloring Versus Drawing: Effects of Cognitive Demand on Mood Repair, Flow and Enjoyment. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 34(2) pp. 75-82.  

Research study on improving mood through levels of engagement in creative expression. 

2.    Greenberg, D, Rentfrow, P., Baron-Cohen, S. (2010) Can Music Increase Empathy? Interpreting Musical Experience Through the Empathizing–Systemizing (E-S) Theory: Implications for Autism. Empirical Musicology Review 10(1-2).

Music is a powerful tool and can help individuals regulate emotions, overcome difficult situations, and find joy in their everyday life. This research study explores a system for teaching empathy (the ability to recognize emotions in others) and systemizing (the ability to predict what will happen and learn how things work). 

Creative Arts and Social Skills

 D'Amico, M., & Lalonde, C. (2017, November 7). The effectiveness of art therapy for teaching social skills to children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 34(4), 176-182. doi:10.1080/07421656.2017.1384678

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder might experience social skill difficulties such as the inability to understand and use nonverbal behaviors, to interpret other people's thoughts and emotions, and to develop age appropriate peer relationships. Read the full article to discover art therapy's effect in one research study focusing on children 10-12 years old with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.  

Parent-Child Interactions Through Creative Arts

1.    Yen-Hsuan Yang, Parents and Young Children with Disabilities: The Effects of a Home-Based Music Therapy Program on Parent-Child Interactions. J Music Ther 2016 53: 27-54. 

Music therapists are creating opportunities to educate parents with music-based activities to support and build stronger relationships with their children at home.  

2.    Thompson, G. (2012, January 1). Family-Centered Music Therapy in the Home Environment: Promoting Interpersonal Engagement between Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Parents. Music Therapy Perspectives, 30(2), 109-116.


Young children are actively engaged and learn best when their learning is part of their daily routine, emphasizing the need to embed learning strategies into natural environments such as the home, childcare, and preschool. 

This article shares the role of the music therapist in sharing their professional skills to promote a relationship between themselves, the parent, and child based on equality and collaboration.  The parent is enabled to be an active participant in the sessions to the extent they feel comfortable. The active involvement of parents in music therapy sessions opens the possibility for positive family outcomes as well as meaningful child development outcomes.

3.    This blog post recaps significant beneficial results for parents with emotionally neglected children who participated in a 2014 music therapy study aimed to increase their ability to interact with their children. 

Creative Arts in Rehabilitation

 1.    Benefits of Music therapy in a rehabilitation setting include using Neurologic music therapy to rebuild areas in the brain and create new neural pathways to aid in language, cognition and motor skills. It can also improve mood.

Nayak, S., Wheeler, B. L., Shiflett, S. C., & Agostinelli, S. (2000). Effect of music therapy on mood and social interaction among individuals with acute traumatic brain injury and stroke.  

The emotional aftereffect that frequently accompanies both stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI) can interfere with an individual's reentry into the community and ability to obtain maximum benefit from rehabilitation. 

2.    Gardiner, J., Horwitz, J., (2015). Neurologic Music Therapy and Group Psychotherapy for Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury: Evaluation of a Cognitive Rehabilitation Group. Music Therapy Perspectives, 33(2), 193-201.

Military Veterans who were also diagnosed with traumatic brain injury were involved in this study combining Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) and group Psychotherapy.  results showed significant improvement in verbal attention, visual attention, verbal learning, verbal memory, visual memory, planning and mental flexibility for those veterans involved in both NMT and group psychotherapy as compared to clients with a TBI without treatment.

3.    Jeong, E (2013). Psychometric Validation of a Music-Based Attention Assessment: Revised for Patients with Traumatic Brain Injury. Journal of Music Therapy, 50(2), 66-92. 

Impairments in attention following a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can severely limit everyday functioning in a multifaceted manner. This article explores a valid and reliable measure that provides assessment information to different types of auditory attention deficits frequently observed in patients with TBI. This assessment can be helpful in determining what deficits are present and how to best treat in a music therapy session.

4.    Felicity A. Baker, PhD, Jeanette Tamplin, PhD, Raymond A. R. MacDonald, PhD, Jennie Ponsford, PhD, Chantal Roddy, BA (Hons), Claire Lee, PhD, Nikki Rickard, PhD; Exploring the Self through Songwriting: An Analysis of Songs Composed by People with Acquired Neurodisability in an Inpatient Rehabilitation Program. Journal of Music Therapy 2017; 54 (1): 35-54. doi: 10.1093/jmt/thw018 

Songwriting is a medium that can be used to explore how you view yourself regarding strengths, interests, values, etc.  The article explores Inpatient neurological rehabilitation for individuals who have experienced brain injury, spinal cord injury, and any adjustment a person may have to make while experiencing and adjusting to a new disability.  The study had three phases where clients write and compose a song that reflects how the client felt about themselves before, during, and after rehabilitation. 

5.    M.H. Thaut, and G.C. McIntosh, “How Music Helps to Heal the Injured Brain: Therapeutic Use Crescendos Thanks to Advances in Brain Science”. Cerebrum: March 2010.  

Neurologic Music Therapy can rebuild areas in the brain by activating non-damaged brain areas to create additional neural pathways. This aids in improving language, cognition, and motor control in individuals with brain injury.  Read more about the evidence-based practice of Neurologic Music Therapy here.


Geretsegger, M., Holck, U., Carpente, J. A., Elefant, C., Kim, J., Gold, C. (2015). Common characteristics of improvisational approaches in music therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder: developing treatment guidelines. Journal of Music Therapy, 52(2), 258-281. 

Improvisation music therapy (IMT) has shown to be effective for nonverbal communication skills, joint attention, affective sharing and initiating behavior, social interactions, and the parent-child relationship. This study sought to identify the common characteristics of IMT when working with children with ASD, to standardize the practice while still accommodating for various client needs and settings, and to set treatment guidelines and assess their feasibility in the practice.

Creative Arts and Oncology 

1.    10 Ways a Music Therapist Aids in Cancer Treatment (5/10/2014)

This post shares 10 ways music therapists benefit patients in the oncology setting. As provided by a board-certified music therapist, music therapy can assist in pain management, relaxation, stress and anxiety reduction, improving mood, reducing nausea, increasing socialization opportunities, distraction, spirituality, improving quality of life, and proving family support (and bonding). 

2.    Differences between Supportive Music an Imagery and Music Listening during Outpatient Chemotherapy and Potential Moderators of Treatment Effects, Journal of Music Therapy, Vol. 55, No. 1 Spring 2018. Burns, PHD, MT-BC, Debra S; Meadows, PhD, MT-BC, Anthony; Althouse, MS, Sandra; Perkins, PhD, Susan; Cripe, MD, Larry.  

Supportive music and imagery and music listening interventions have been effective in decreasing distress and improving mood in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. This study examined the effects of supportive music and imagery compared with preferred music listening on responsiveness to music therapy, distress, anxiety, and depression. 

3.    Mahon, E.M. and Mahon, S.M. (2011) Music Therapy: A Valuable Adjunct in the Oncology Setting. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing. 15(4): 353-356.  

The article discusses goal areas (self-expression, anxiety reduction, alleviation of pain and nausea) and possible music therapy interventions (group or individual, active or passive music) in an oncology setting, as well as presents a case study of a patient diagnosed with cancer.

4.    Potvin, N., Bradt, J., Kesslick, A: (2015) Expanding Perspective on Music Therapy for Symptom Management in Cancer Care. J Music Ther. Spring;52(1):135-67. doi: 10.1093/jmt/thu056. Epub 2015 Mar 9. 

The main purpose of the trial was to measure the effect of music therapy versus music medicine sessions on anxiety, mood, pain and level of relaxation.

Creative Arts and Grief 

1.    Clarkson, G. (2014) Seeking the Inner Father: Integrating Grief Through GIM. Journal of the Association for Music and Imagery (14) 23-38.

Guided Imagery Through Music is a music-oriented, transformational therapy that provides individuals with opportunities to integrate mental, emotional, physical and spiritual dimensions. GIM goes beyond words to access the unconscious and often to direct, cathartic experiences for individuals. This method proved very effective in this individual’s journey to a healthier self.


2.    Fiore, J. (2016) Analysis of Lyrics from Group Songwriting with Bereaved Children and Adolescents. Journal of Music therapy 53(3) 207-231. 

Songwriting is an intervention that can be very helpful in processing and expressing grief with bereaved children and adolescents. This article discusses the developmental stages of children and adolescents along with the different stages and expressions of grief. This study recognizes that with children and adolescents who are grieving, gathering peers, and offering group support can assist in reducing isolation, teaching coping skills and emotional expression, providing education about the grief process and using friendships and play to illustrate that loss is a part of life.  Group music therapy and songwriting can offer a safe environment that promotes the development of these skills, and opportunities for expression and reflection. 

Creative Arts and Mental Health

1.    Fancourt D, Perkins R, Ascenso S, Carvalho LA, Steptoe A, Williamon A (2016) Effects of Group Drumming Interventions on Anxiety, Depression, Social Resilience and Inflammatory Immune Response among Mental Health Service Users. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0151136. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151136 

This study demonstrates the psychological benefits of group drumming, not only regarding mental health, but also in alleviating some of the commonly associated biological responses to anxiety, depression, and social resilience.

2.    Korlin D., Nyback, H., Goldberg, FS. (2000). Creative arts groups in psychiatric care: Development and evaluation of a therapeutic alternative. Nord Journal of Psychiatry, 54(5), 333-340.

This article discusses the use of a structured creative arts group program that individuals followed for 4 weeks. This program included groups of receptive music therapy (GIM), body awareness, art therapy, occupational therapy and verbal group therapy. Individuals who were patients in this study had a variety of diagnoses including anamnestic trauma, substance abuse, eating disorders, suicidal ideation and attempts, intrusive trauma, separation trauma and mood disorders. 
3.    Beck, B.D., Hansen, A.M., Gold, C., (2015) Coping with Work-Related Stress through Guided Imagery and Music (GIM): Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Music Therapy, 52(3)323–352.

This study shows that GIM is a promising tool for use in assisting individuals on sick leave return to work in a timely manner. Significant beneficial effects of GIM were found in well-being, mood disturbance, and physical distress. 

4.    Carr, C., d’Ardenne, P., Sloboda, A., Scott, C., Wang, D., & Priebe, S. (2012). Group music therapy for patients with persistent post‐traumatic stress disorder–an exploratory randomized controlled trial with mixed methods evaluation. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 85(2), 179-202 

Study to determine if music therapy has a positive effect on individuals with PTSD and other co-occurring disorders such as depression.  Some individuals with PTSD had little response to more verbal therapy and CBT and sought to see if there was a significant difference between outcomes of those therapies vs. Music therapy.  

5.    Perryman, K., Blisard, P., & Moss, R. (2019). Using Creative Arts in Trauma Therapy: The Neuroscience of Healing. Journal of Mental Health Counseling. 41(1) 80-94.

This article discusses how our brains store traumatic experiences, how we learn to cope with these and how the creative arts impact our healing through trauma. We know the brain is incredibly complex, and the left and right hemispheres of our brains have different roles. If trauma gets “stuck” in the right hemisphere it is difficult for one to talk about their experiences, and this is where the therapeutic creative arts – from a neuroscientific standpoint – assist with accessing and processing trauma.


Pain Management
mental health
adolescent art therapy
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