Art and Minds - Taking Room for Art a step further

Room for Art is our social prescribing project providing visual arts on a weekly basis to adults in at least seven areas of Edinburgh, we aim to improve people’s health and wellbeing. 

Our usual Room for Art Workshops can be therapeutic, but our artists are not therapists and not trained to deal with people in crisis. In this last year, a lot of our participants were needing more support than we could offer either due to the impact of the pandemic, or they were unable to access other services. We were having and continue to have trouble connecting those in crisis to the help they need.  

We developed an Art Therapy addition to our service in January 2021 with both group work and 1:1 sessions with Art Therapist and cartoonist Malcy Duff. Our usual Room for Art sessions are like art studios – social spaces where people often use the art making to distract from what’s going on in their lives and they learn lots of new techniques.  Art therapy differs in that it combines image making and psychotherapy to aid awareness, individual growth and address emotional issues that may be distressing or confusing.  

Image from Art Therapy evaluation

We ran two weekly groups, a total of 36 sessions on Zoom and engaged 15 people. Some of the outcomes that have come out of our evaluation: 

More social connectedness – Meaningful connections made through shared experience, great deal of support amongst members of the group including practical.

Increased resilience or strength – Evidence of art being used outwith the sessions to help cope, of feeling less overwhelmed and of understanding and accepting feelings and emotions.

Improved mood – Visible change in some participants’ mood; happier and ‘lighter’ at the end of the session. Some exploring positive themes such as happiness and hope and some finding it relaxing.

Feel better about themselves (raised self esteem) – People feeling valued, heard and listened to. Increased confidence to be themselves and feeling like they ‘can do’.

Feelings of being heard, listened to and supported. My acceptance of my feelings / emotions, a bit more.” 

“Prior to the therapy sessions I was feeling overwhelmed by recent events and was having difficulty keeping up with my own life….until I was almost brought to a standstill. Having realised I could improve my creativity by strengthening and simplifying images. It was apparent I could apply this to my everyday thinking as well.” 

Image from Art Therapy evaluation

What did we learn?

  • Group therapy can be challenging and, in some cases, people get affected by what others share. It worked well to be able to offer 1:1s to help with this. 
  • For many, time and space to explore how they are feeling or coping can be hard to find elsewhere in our participant’s lives. It was also harder for some to sustain this dedicated time once restrictions were lifted. 
  • Having an offer of art therapy can take the pressure off artists and staff running the regular Room for Art workshops.  
  • We are really trusted by our participants and have learnt more about their lives. It is important for us to connect more with services that can offer support when we can’t. 
  • Generally, participants are more playful and experimental with materials and less focussed on the ‘right techniques’ in the Art Therapy. 
Image from Art Therapy evaluation

What now?

We have built on this work and are now running one weekly Art Therapy in-person sessions to participants and are working with SAMH at Redhall Walled Garden to pilot a Men’s Art Therapy group.

We’ve also recently designed a poster for the Voluntary Health Scotland conference on this work:

Find out more:

Facebook – @ROOMFORARTEdinburgh  

Instagram – 

29 September 2021 by

Art in Healthcare