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Effectiveness of Art Therapy in Reducing Depression in Prison Populations

NCJ Number
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Volume: 51 Issue: 4 Dated: August 2007 Pages: 444-460
David Gussak
Date Published
August 2007
17 pages
This study analyzed the effectiveness an art therapy program at reducing depressive symptoms among inmates in a North Florida prison.
Overall, the results of both the pilot study and the followup study indicated a decrease in depressive symptoms for inmates who participated in the art therapy program. However, the FEATS followup results did not seem to indicate significant change, which could be due to a number of factors including the small sample size and the voluntary nature of the followup study. Despite the lack of significant findings using the FEATS measurement, the Beck Depression Inventory Short Form did indicate a significant change in mood for those who attended art therapy services. Based on the strength of these two studies, the Florida Department of Corrections has negotiated for a long-term research placement for art therapy in its prisons. Two studies are reported on: a pilot study and a followup study. In the pilot study, 48 male inmates of a medium- to maximum-security prison received art therapy services for a 4-week period. An art therapy-based assessment, the Formal Elements Art Therapy Scale (FEATS) and a survey developed by the staff counselor and primary research were administered once before the art therapy intervention and once following the intervention. The scores were compared to assess therapeutic change. The followup study involved 2 groups of participants: an experimental group of 16 inmates who had received art therapy services for 8 weeks and a control group of 17 inmates who had not received art therapy services. Participants completed the FEATS and the Beck Depression Inventory Short Form. Future research is planned using a third group that receives verbal therapy sessions. Tables, figures, references


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