An Investigation of the Effectiveness of Arts Therapies Interventions on Measures of Quality of Life and Wellbeing: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Study in Primary Schools

Vicky Karkou, ZOI MOULA*, Joanne Powell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
75 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Over the last decades there has been a change in the way schooling is perceived recognizing that children’s learning is closely linked to children’s health. Children spend most of their time at school, which is often the place where problems are identified and interventions are offered, not only for treatment but also prevention. Embedding arts therapies into the educational system may help address children’s emerging needs and have a positive impact on their wellbeing.

Methods: A pilot cross-over randomized controlled design was employed to investigate the effectiveness of an arts therapies intervention on a series of child- and teacher-reported outcome measures, specifically, health related quality of life (assessed using a HRQOL scale; EQ-5D-Y), wellbeing and life functioning (assessed using the child outcome rating scale; CORS), emotional and behavioral difficulties (assessed using the strengths and difficulties questionnaire; SDQ), as well as duration of sleep (assessed using Fitbits). Sample size calculations for future large-scale studies were also performed, and the sustained impact of the intervention was evaluated at 3, 6, and 12 months follow-up. The pluralistic theoretical and therapeutic framework of this intervention was informed by a systematic review on school-based arts therapies interventions and is presented in detail in the study protocol. Participants were 62 children with mild emotional and behavioral difficulties.

Results: Improvements in HRQOL and CORS were greater in those engaged in the arts therapies intervention than the control groups and were maintained at the follow-up stages. Significant improvements were only found for duration of sleep (P = 0.002) and SDQ (P = 0.008). Minimal clinically important differences (MCIDs) as defined in the published protocol were found for CORS, SDQ and duration of sleep, but not HRQOL.

Discussion: Findings indicate that the arts therapies interventions were having a clinically significant effect on life functioning, duration of sleep, emotional and behavioral difficulties. Findings also indicate a small effect size for health related quality of life, suggesting the intervention was having a small positive effect on this outcome measure. The study indicates that all outcome measures assessed here would be suitable for inclusion in a larger randomized controlled study utilizing these arts therapies interventions, and that a sample size of 225 participants would be required if these outcome measures were used.
Original languageEnglish
Article number586134
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Early online date15 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020


  • arts therapies
  • art therapy
  • music therapy
  • dramatherapy
  • drama therapy
  • dance movement therapy
  • arts therapies, art therapy, music therarandomized controlled study
  • children
  • pupils
  • primary schools


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