Finding Beauty in Dark Moments ...


Art Therapy is a relatively new discipline. It is, therefore, little known and potentially misunderstood. There is an abundance of qualitative and case-study based research which points to the effectiveness of art therapy but a relative scarcity of quantitative research.  I will post information on research of both kinds as I come across it. 


Brooker, Julie. Found Objects in Art Therapy. 

Dr. Andrea Gilroy's book titled, 'Art Therapy, Research and Evidence-Based Practice', provides a comprehensive overview of all the significant research into the efficacy of art therapy.

Literature review

Malchiodi, Cathy. Yes, Virginia, There Is Some Art Research in Psychology Today

The Healing Arts : The Restoring Power of the Imagination  


Gussack, David. The Effectiveness of Art Therapy in Reducing Depression in Prison Populations  in International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vo. 51, No. 4, 2007.

Art Therapy - Depression - Prison

Mitchell, Douglas. Art Therapy as a Treatment for Depression. 

Art Therapy - Depression 

Moustafa, Deenna.  Art Therapy, Depressed Children and Adolescents : An Overview.

Art Therapy - Depression - Autism


Margaret Livingstone : What Art Can Tell Us About the Brain 

What Art Can Tell Us About the Brain

Eric Kandel, an Austrian neuroscientist, discovered
that that the emotional charge of a fearful or anxious memory in the amygdala is lessened when that memory becomes conscious. Bringing the 
unconscious into conscious awareness helps dissipate the intense emotional charge around it - it's a bit like turning the light on and looking under the bed to make sure the boogeyman isn't really there. Once brought into the light and addressed, an undifferentiated fear has much less power over us. Art Therapy enables this to happen in a gentle and often surprising way.

What I find most exciting about Kandel's view of the world is his linking of - rather than the separation between, that is so prevalent in much thinking on both sides - the arts and sciences. Kandel states that 'In Vienna at the end of the 19th century, uncovering the unconscious was a project shared by scientists, artists and writers alike. People such as [writer and doctor] Arthur Schnitzler, [painters] Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, and [artist, poet and playwright] Oskar Kokoschka exchanged their ideas with scientists and other intellectuals and scientists in literary circles.'

In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind.

'Charting the intellectual history of the emerging biology of mind, Eric R. Kandel illuminates how behavioral psychology, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and molecular biology have converged into a powerful new science of mind. This science now provides nuanced insights into normal mental functioning and disease, and simultaneously opens pathways to more effective healing.

Driven by vibrant curiosity, Kandel’s personal quest to understand memory is threaded throughout this absorbing history. Beginning with his childhood in Nazi-occupied Vienna,In Search of Memory chronicles Kandel’s outstanding career from his initial fascination with history and psychoanalysis to his groundbreaking work on the biological process of memory, which earned him the Nobel Prize.

A deft mixture of memoir and history, modern biology and behavior, In Search of Memory traces how a brilliant scientist’s intellectual journey intersected with one of the great scientific endeavors of the twentieth century: the search for the biological basis of memory.'

“A stunning book.” Oliver Sacks 

The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present.

'A brilliant book by Nobel Prize winner Eric R. Kandel, The Age of Insight takes us to Vienna 1900, where leaders in science, medicine, and art began a revolution that changed forever how we think about the human mind—our conscious and unconscious thoughts and emotions—and how mind and brain relate to art. At the turn of the century, Vienna was the cultural capital of Europe. Artists and scientists met in glittering salons, where they freely exchanged ideas that led to revolutionary breakthroughs in psychology, brain science, literature, and art. Kandel takes us into the world of Vienna to trace, in rich and rewarding detail, the ideas and advances made then, and their enduring influence today.

The Vienna School of Medicine led the way with its realization that truth lies hidden beneath the surface. That principle infused Viennese culture and strongly influenced the other pioneers of Vienna 1900. Sigmund Freud shocked the world with his insights into how our everyday unconscious aggressive and erotic desires are repressed and disguised in symbols, dreams, and behavior. Arthur Schnitzler revealed women’s unconscious sexuality in his novels through his innovative use of the interior monologue. Gustav Klimt, Oscar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele created startlingly evocative and honest portraits that expressed unconscious lust, desire, anxiety, and the fear of death.
Kandel tells the story of how these pioneers—Freud, Schnitzler, Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele—inspired by the Vienna School of Medicine, in turn influenced the founders of the Vienna School of Art History to ask pivotal questions such as What does the viewer bring to a work of art? How does the beholder respond to it? These questions prompted new and ongoing discoveries in psychology and brain biology, leading to revelations about how we see and perceive, how we think and feel, and how we respond to and create works of art. Kandel, one of the leading scientific thinkers of our time, places these five innovators in the context of today’s cutting-edge science and gives us a new understanding of the modernist art of Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele, as well as the school of thought of Freud and Schnitzler. Reinvigorating the intellectual enquiry that began in Vienna 1900, The Age of Insight is a wonderfully written, superbly researched, and beautifully illustrated book that also provides a foundation for future work in neuroscience and the humanities. It is an extraordinary book from an international leader in neuroscience and intellectual history.'

Kaufman, Scott. Beautiful Minds, Scientific American Blog Network. The Real Neuroscience of Creativity 


Belkofer, Christopher M.  and Konopka,  Lukasz M. Conducting Art Therapy Research Using Quantitative EEG Measures in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 25(2) pp. 56-63 © AATA, Inc. 2008. 

Research conducted by Christopher Belkofer, an art therapist, and Lukasz Konopka, a neuroscientist, At Hines Veteran's Hospital in Illinois, used an EEG to show differences in the patterns of electrical acitvity of a participant's brain follwoing one hour of painting and drawing.

Quantitative Art Therapy Research - EEG

O’Brien, Frances. The Making of Mess in Art Therapy : Attachment, trauma and the brain in International Journal of Art Therapy, 9: 1, 2 — 13.


This article explores the hypothesis that artwork created during art therapy may activate neurological structures of the brain enabling non-verbal early experience to become known. Art making is a right brain activity and early experience is processed in the right brain. Art therapy can attempt to access early emotional trauma which has caused damage to the right hemisphere of the brain. 



Hupka, R.B. et al. (1997) The colours of anger, envy, fear and jealousy : A cross-cultural study in Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 28, 156-71. 

Carruthers, Helen R. et al. 'The Manchester Color Wheel: development of a novel way of identifying color choice and its validation in healthy, anxious and depressed individuals' in BMC Medical Research Methodology,  2010, 10:12  '... We have recently been studying the imagery of irritable bowel syndrome and shown that patients who have an image of their condition respond better to hypnotherapy than those who don't [1]. Furthermore, the response was even better if the image was in color. This has led us to speculate that how patients relate their illness or mood to color might be an area worthy of further investigation.'


Malchiodi, Cathy. Using Art Therapy to Address Bullying, on TLC : The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children, Nov. 28, 2010.

Safran and Safran (2008) note that victims of bullying can benefit from opportunities to express themselves in a safe, creative way. In particular, art expression offers opportunities to communicate and explore more deep-seated feelings about being bullied, emotions that may not be addressed in school-based anti-bullying programs. 

AT and Bullying


  • "What do you do when life consumes you with its busy-ness? How do you get in touch with yourself again? I chose to spend a morning with Karen doing a sculpture on beautiful Kil..."
    Retired Occupational Therapist
  • "I have just attended a most inspiring workshop! I was at a cross-roads in my life and wanted some clarity to make important decisions of where my next steps should lead. I found..."
    Jeannie Lawson