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Mindful art therapy promotes employee wellbeing

Updated: Aug 2, 2018

I finally finished my Masters of Mental Health, Art Therapy through the University of Queensland's School of Medicine/Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences!!

Through the independent research, I conducted an exploratory case study on the application of art therapy in the corporate world. According to the Australian Psychological Society, Australian workplaces are faced with increasing stress and decreasing levels of well-being. So really isn't it time they reaped the many benefits of art therapy?

More and more evidence supports the use of preventative interventions aimed at organisations and individuals in an effort to increase their well-being and buffer them from stress. Many are aware that every individual experiences stress differently. As a result promotional interventions aimed at individuals are an important facet in any progressive organisation’s strategies to support and promote employee well-being.

While workplace mindfulness is gaining popularity in global organisations for stress management and self-care, the use of art therapy is scare. This is perplexing because art therapy is an age old healing modality that has been used across diverse populations, settings and for a range of mental health issues. More over there is compelling evidence for art therapy’s ability to help manage stress, based on its role in bolstering neurological processes and emotional regulation at the heart of the stress response. And the benefit of using art therapy can also be found in its ability to support increased creativity, something workplaces are increasingly searching for.

My research examined mindful art therapy as a positive workplace intervention for promoting employee well-being. It was comprised of six weekly one-on-one sessions conducted with two professional female participants. The sessions were themed based on research in well-being, positive psychology and neuroscience. Each session incorporated a check-in, mindful breathing practice, psycho-education, art interventions, reflections and optional ‘homework’. A combination of quantitative measures and qualitative data assessed outcomes. Administration of a weekly Adult Outcome Rating Scale (ORS) and pre- and post- evaluations, the Perceived Stress Scale and WHO (Five) Well-being Index, were employed.

What is exciting is the post-tests indicate clinically significant improvements occurred in participants’ subjective well-being as well as clinically significant reductions in their perceived stress levels. While further and larger studies are necessary to assess results validity across a wider target population, the outcomes are promising for the use of mindful art therapy in corporate settings.

Katherine Winlaw is an internationally registered art psychotherapist who works with individuals and teams to promote personal and professional wellbeing and create workplaces where everyone thrives. The mindful art techniques she uses are available to anyone, and do not require artistic skill. Her most popular programs are for boosting staff wellbeing, improving communication and conflict resolution as well as life and career transitions.



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