1. In this randomized controlled study, manual-based phenomenological art therapy was associated with reduced depression, suicidal ideation, and increased self-esteem.
2. Improvements in mood associated with manual-based phenomenological art therapy were sustained at 6-month follow-up.
Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)
Individuals who exhibit depressive symptoms and suicidality are at risk for developing chronic, persistent, and treatment-resistant depression. The combination of manual-based phenomenological art therapy (PATd) with treatment as usual (TAU) has been previously associated with improvement in depressive symptoms immediately following intervention.
The purpose of the present randomized control study was to summarize if the combination of PATd with TAU has a sustained effect on improving mood. 79 participants were randomized into either receiving TAU (36 participants) or TAU as well as PATd (43 participants). Patients were included if they were adults who had been diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. Exclusion criteria included history of psychotic symptoms, diagnosis of bipolar syndrome, ongoing substance use disorder, cognitive disability, and recent exposure to a traumatic event. The Montgomery-Åsberg depression rating scale (MADRS-S), Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES), and Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI) were administered at baseline, after 13 weeks, and at 6 month follow-up.
A total of 35 participants completed the PATd intervention as compared to 29 TAU-only controls. Individuals in the PATd group showed significant, sustained improvement in MADRS-S, RSES, and SSI scores. Women were more likely to show improvement with PATd contrasted with individuals with underlying comorbidities who were less likely to demonstrate improvement. Individuals in the PATd group were also less likely to take sick leaves from work during the study period. Limitations were noted in the study, such as limited generalizability due to small sample size and limited follow-up period. Nonetheless, results from the study suggest that art therapy may have a sustained benefit in treating depressive symptoms, suicidality, and low self-esteem.
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