Attention to the benefits of mindfulness practice transcends the fields of mental health and medicine. Extensive research has explored the use of mindfulness-based practices in counseling and psychotherapy. Benefits of mindfulness practice, both during session and in cases in which mindfulness was only practiced by the therapist outside of session, have included improved physical and mental well-being. Notably, mindfulness practice has been linked with stress reduction. The application of mindfulness to art therapy is intrinsic. As interest in applying mindfulness to art therapy increases, the practice of combined art therapy and mindfulness interventions expands. Research exploring the effects of combined art therapy and mindfulness interventions suggest positive emotional, physiological, and neurological benefits for participating subjects. However, there is a distinct gap in the literature exploring the impact of the art process on mindfulness, which has implications for art therapists utilizing mindfulness-based art therapy interventions.
The current state of flux of the American health care system, coupled with the challenges of working within a managed care health system, add tension to an already strained environment for today’s physicians, patients and patient caregivers. Medical students and informal caregivers are among those well acquainted with increased levels of stress. Combined, mindfulness and art therapy interventions have been studied in a variety of populations and have proven effective in subjective reports from participants as well as in neurological and physiological measurements. Mindfulness based art therapy is a feasible intervention to address distress among medical students and informal caregivers and promote a positive form of self-care through mindful meditation and art making. Currently, there is no research measuring the impact of adding art therapy to a mindfulness enhancement training for informal caregivers and medical students. Without evidence that adding art therapy to mindfulness enhancement training is beneficial, art therapists may fail to fully harness effective strategies to promote client well-being.
This study focuses on two distinct health care worker populations. Arm 1 of the study examines medical students and Arm 2 of the study informal caregivers. Both were guided by the same four research questions. The first question asks, “What is the impact of adding an art therapy component to mindfulness enhancement training on mindfulness in the participant?” The second question asks, “What is the impact of adding an art therapy component to mindfulness enhancement training on coherence in the participant?” The third question is, “In mindfulness enhancement training and mindfulness-based art therapy, how does the participant rank satisfaction with different aspects of the intervention?” The final question explores, “In mindfulness-based art therapy, what media did the participant employ and how did the participant rank satisfaction with employed media?”
An ABAB reversal single subject research design was used in this study to evaluate the impact of adding an art therapy intervention to treatment as usual (TAU) in a mindfulness enhancement training for participants. The independent variable in Phase A was TAU mindfulness enhancement training. The independent variable in Phase B was a mindfulness-based art therapy intervention. Two dependent variables were measured in this study: mindfulness as measured by the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale Short (MAAS-S) and coherence as measured by the University of Tokyo Health Sociology Sense of Coherence Scale (SOC-3-UTHS). Two adult participants participated in this study: one informal caregiver and one medical student.
Results from the two studies presented in this dissertation demonstrate adding an art therapy component to mindfulness enhancement training had a moderate effect on mindfulness scores in a medical student and an informal caregiver. A weak effect was found for sense of coherence scores in both the medical student and informal caregiver when art therapy was added to mindfulness enhancement training. The studies presented also reveal varied satisfaction with the intervention and art materials provided that encourage continued consideration among art therapists of individualized client experience. These findings may support art therapists in applying MBAT interventions to promote mindfulness, not only with medical students and informal caregivers but across populations, as well as considerations for promoting coherence with clients.