What do you see? : studies on time-limited psychodynamic art psychotherapy

Abstract: The main purpose of this thesis is to explore experiences of two different psychological interventions based on art psychotherapy in women with a psychological or physical illness. The two interventions are art psychotherapy and art therapy. The difference between these two interventions is that the art therapist works with the transference in art psychotherapy but not in art therapy. The thesis consists of two studies of art psychotherapy: An art psychotherapy intervention is evaluated in Study 1 (papers III and V) which examines a group of patients diagnosed with depression and Study 2 (paper II) which examines experiences in a group of six patients diagnosed with vulva vestibulitis. An art therapy intervention is evaluated in the third study (papers I and IV); where experiences in patients diagnosed with breast cancer are examined. In Study 1, forty-three (n=43) depressed women were randomly assigned to either an intervention group or a control group (verbal psychotherapy). The aim was to examine the outcome of time limited psychodynamic art therapy compared to time-limited psychodynamic verbal therapy for patients with depressive symptoms. Interviews were performed before, immediately after, and three months after the termination of psychotherapy, and self-rating scales which focus on stress reactions, depression and symptoms as well as an observer rating scale on depression were used. The interviews and the art sessions were video-recorded, and the verbal psychotherapy was tape-recorded. The results showed that the art and verbal psychotherapies were comparable. The conclusion was that short-term psychodynamic art psychotherapy could be a valuable treatment for depressed women. In an in-depth content analysis, the method of scribbling was further investigated and exemplified with the therapies of two participants. In this study, the patients’ pictures and verbal expressions of progress, along with considerations of how to interpret the pictures were in focus. When leaving therapy the two patients took advantage of the paper, made complete forms, symbolised in words what they have expressed in pictures; in pace with psychotherapy the themes alter towards separation, individuation, and attempt to relate in a new way. The conclusion was that limelimited psychodynamic art therapy suggests giving a safer place for the self as the cohesion is firmer with better boundaries. Study 2 is a pilot study, which involved six young patients newly diagnosed with vulva vestibulitis. The aim of the study was to investigate pain at vestibulum, mental health, and self-image after fifteen sessions of art psychotherapy. Five of the patients were judged to have less pain three months after termination of therapy. The conclusion was that art psychotherapy with its openness seemed to affect young women in their experiences of vulva vestibulitis in a positive direction. Study 3 examined the potential benefit of art therapy for women with primary breast cancer. The sample comprised forty-one (n=41) patients who were randomly assigned either to an art therapy group or to a control group. The art therapy was going on during five weeks radiation treatment, one session per week. The aim was to investigate the outcome of art therapy, to quantify and compare the participant coping s, self-image, and the symptoms with the participant in the control group. Interviews were performed before, immediately after, and six month after inclusion. A set of self-rating scales was used: Coping Resources Inventory, the Structural Analysis of Social Behavior, and Symptom Check List – 90. The result showed that the patients in the art therapy group rated their coping s and especially their social s, higher than the control group, and that the average patients in the art therapy group improved in depressive symptoms and symptoms of anxiety, and that the general psychiatric symptoms improved as well. A linear regression analysis showed a tendency that the coping s increased in the art therapy group and decreased in the control group or even stagnated in the social domain. A second report on self-image, symptoms, treatment, and social variables showed that art therapy was related to lower ratings of depression, anxiety, and general symptoms after treatment; chemotherapeutic treatment predicted lower depressive symptoms and general symptoms in contrast to axilliary surgery and hormonal treatment. The results showed that art therapy could be valuable complementary therapy in routine oncology practise. The conclusion is that art therapy can have a positive long-term effect on the crisis following the primary breast cancer and its consequences. Conclusion: The results show that time-limited psychodynamic art psychotherapy is valuable for depressed women; that it is a valuable complement for women with vulva vestibulitis; and that art therapy is a valuable complement in the care and cure of women with primary breast cancer.