The aim of this systematic literature review is to contribute to the ongoing discussion in the field by exploring the latest studies dealing with the effectiveness of art therapy with a broad scope of adult clients.We conducted a comprehensive search in four databases and review of every quantitative article that has addressed outcome measures in the art therapy field from 2000 to 2017.
Two decades later, the field of research in art therapy has developed considerably.
There are several reviews in the field that describe the expanding body of research work.
Since the field of art therapy is still young, the scope of research is limited and the quality of research is diverse, which makes it difficult to create a comparative review that presents the knowledge in the field and draws thorough conclusions.
Therefore, our review is based on the systematic review framework proposed in Case-Smith (2013) who divided the studies she reviewed into three levels of evidence.
They pointed out that it is difficult to produce quantitative meta-analyses in art therapy given the limited size of the groups and because the evaluation is often based on several therapeutic methods that are used simultaneously. (2015a,b) reviewed all the studies dealing with art therapy for adult clients with non-psychotic psychiatric disorders (anxiety, depression, and phobias).
They found 15 randomized controlled quantitative studies of which 10 indicated that the therapeutic process was effective (positive changes following therapy in comparison to the control group).The authors focused on describing different ways to use art therapy in this context and argued that there has been a gradual emergence of a vast body of knowledge that reinforces the benefits of art therapy for people working in stressful work environments.In the past three years, a number of literature reviews of controlled quantitative studies have dealt more specifically with the issue of the effectiveness of art therapy in treating specific populations. (2015) overviewed quantitative studies in art therapy with adult trauma victims.Together with these comprehensive reviews, many literature reviews have appeared in recent years discussing specific populations and a range of research methods. They assessed quantitative and qualitative studies and found that most studies have dealt with women suffering from breast cancer.For example, in the field of art therapy for adults, Holmqvist and Persson (2012) overviewed art therapy studies on clients with psychosomatic disorders, eating disorders, or facing crises, based on case studies and intervention techniques. They also documented the intervention techniques that were specifically used with this population, and reported that overall, the quantitative studies reported an improvement in a number of emotional domains faced by these clients.They found that only six studies included a control group (only one of which included randomization) in this field.Half reported a significant reduction in trauma symptoms and another study found a decrease in the levels of depression in clients treated with art therapy.Level 1 refers to randomized controlled trials (RCT's), level 2 refers to nonrandomized two-group studies, and level 3 refers to nonrandomized one-group studies.The second challenge has to do with the definition art therapy.Their review included qualitative studies, studies based on a single client in therapy, studies with no control groups, studies with a control group but with no randomization, and a small number of studies with a control group and randomization.They concluded that there has been progress in the field, but further research is needed. (2014) summarized high-quality studies that implemented RCT that focused on art therapy with adults.