Catching life: the contribution of arts initiatives to recovery approaches in mental health


H. Spandler
Department of Social Work
University of Central Lancashire


This paper draws on a qualitative study that was undertaken as part of a national research study to assess the impact of participatory arts provision for people with mental health needs. It explores how arts and mental health projects may facilitate some of the key elements of what has been termed a ‘recovery approach’ in mental health. It is argued that it is precisely these elements – the fostering of hope, creating a sense of meaning and purpose, developing new coping mechanisms and rebuilding identities – which are hard to standardize and measure, yet may be the most profound and significant outcomes of participation in such projects. Therefore, in the context of a growing emphasis on recovery-orientated mental health services, while not necessarily being appropriate for all service users, arts and mental health initiatives could make an essential contribution to the future of mental health and social care provision.