Arts for the Blues: The development of a new evidence-based creative group psychotherapy for depression.

Vicky Karkou, Joanna Omylinska-Thurston*, Ailsa Parsons, Kerry Nair, Linda Dubrow-Marshall, Jennifer Starkey, Irene Dudley-Swarbrick, Surina Sharma

*Corresponding author for this work

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

12 Citations (Scopus)
115 Downloads (Pure)


Depression affects many adults in the UK, often resulting in referral to primary care mental health services (e.g. Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, IAPT). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the main modality offered in IAPT when clients experience depression, with other approaches offered in a limited capacity. Arts psychotherapies are rarely provided despite their attractiveness to clients. However, the recent drop-out rate of 64% from IAPT suggests clients’ needs are not being fully met. Therefore, in order to expand clients’ choices we developed a new creative psychological therapy integrating evidence-based approaches with arts psychotherapies.
A three-level approach to development was used:
a)thematic synthesis of client-identified helpful factors in evidence-based approaches for depression and in arts psychotherapies;
b)studio practice exploring Cochrane Review findings on arts psychotherapies for depression;
c)pilot workshops for clients with depression and therapists.
Findings and Discussion:
Eight key ingredients for positive therapy outcomes were identified: encouraging active engagement, learning skills, developing relationships, expressing emotions, processing at a deeper level, gaining understanding, experimenting with different ways of being, and integrating useful material. These ingredients were brought together as Arts for the Blues for clients with depression: a 12-session evidence-based pluralistic group psychotherapy that integrates client goals and preferences with creative methods as well as talking therapy.
The evidence-based foundation, creative content, and pluralistic nature of this new approach aligned with eight client-identified key ingredients for positive therapy outcomes, make it a promising therapy option that can be adapted to individual therapy. Implications include consideration for NICE approval as an additional therapeutic approach for depression.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCounselling and Psychotherapy Research
Early online date14 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Dec 2020


  • arts for the blues
  • creative methods
  • psychotherapy
  • depression
  • group
  • pluralistic


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