A systematic review of the effectiveness of art therapy delivered in school-based settings to children aged 5–12 years

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Background: School-based art therapy aims to facilitate children's personal change and growth through the use of visual arts media, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, clay, or digital art.
Aims: To identify and synthesise the types of school-based art therapy interventions, and appraise the effectiveness for children aged 5-12.
Methods: Systematic searching through ten major electronic databases, grey literature, and contact with experts in the field.
Results: Six completed and two on-going studies were identified. Art therapy was delivered to children with asthma, behavioural disorders, oppositional defiant disorders, separation anxiety disorders, learning disorders, and disruptive behaviours. All interventions were delivered over 7-25 sessions, and lasted 40-60' per session. The sample sizes ranged between 20-109 participants, involving 247 participants in total.
Conclusions: Art therapy can be effective in improving children's quality of life; anxiety; self-concept; problem-solving skills, attitudes towards school; emotional and behavioural difficulties. The follow-up findings were also promising; though confirmatory evidence is needed.
Implications: The risk of bias was high and unclear, highlighting the importance of following standardised reporting guidelines. Future research needs to focus on the identification of primary outcomes and measures that are tailored to art therapy interventions, and explore the (cost-) effectiveness of shorter versus longer durations of treatment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Art Therapy: Inscape
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2020



  • Systematic literature review
  • Art therapy
  • Child
  • Primary schools
  • Effectiveness

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