‘Painting a path to wellness’: correlations between participating in a creative activity group and improved measured mental health outcome


L. Caddy, Medical Centre, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway WA 6009 Australia. E-mail: lizcaddy@aapt.net.au


Accessible summary

  • • Despite the long-standing popularity of creative activity groups with mental health patients, there has been a lack of measurement evidencing a positive relationship between participation in such groups and improved mental health.
  • • This study used de-identified hospital records covering the period 2004–2009 to chart measured mental health outcomes for 403 patients attending a creative activity group in an acute inpatient psychiatric setting.
  • • Four different clinical assessment tools were used to measure changes in mental health from admission to discharge for participants of the creative activity group.
  • • Research findings establish that participation in creative activity positively correlates with improved mental health.
  • • In the context of this research project, the term ‘creative activity’ includes participation in art, craft or expressive art-based activity.


Responding to a call for quantitative outcome evidence about the therapeutic relationship between creative activity and mental health, this study examined the mental health outcomes of inpatients participating in art- and craft-based creative therapies at a private psychiatric hospital over a 5-year period. The creative activity group sample (n= 403) improved from admission to discharge across four different psychometric measures with moderate to strong mean effect sizes. Reductions from pre- to post-treatment in both self-reported and clinician-rated symptoms are clearly demonstrated for the creative activity group participant sample. Research findings establish that participation in creative activity has potential benefits for people experiencing mental health problems.