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The goal of my study is to test the overarching hypothesis that art therapy is effective because it targets emotional dysregulation that often accompanies significant health stressors. By reducing the salience of illness-related stressors, art therapy may improve overall mood

The goal of my study is to test the overarching hypothesis that art therapy is effective because it targets emotional dysregulation that often accompanies significant health stressors. By reducing the salience of illness-related stressors, art therapy may improve overall mood and recovery, particularly in patients with cancer. After consulting the primary literature and review papers to develop psychological and neural mechanisms at work in art therapy, I created a hypothetical experimental procedure to test these hypotheses to explain why art therapy is helpful to patients with chronic illness. Studies found that art therapy stimulates activity of multiple brain regions involved in memory retrieval and the arousal of emotions. I hypothesize that patients with chronic illness have a reduced capacity for emotion regulation, or difficulty recognizing, expressing or altering illness-related emotions (Gross & Barrett, 2011). Further I hypothesize that art therapy improves mood and therapeutic outcomes by acting on the emotion-processing regions of the limbic system, and thereby facilitating the healthy expression of emotion, emotional processing, and reappraisal. More mechanistically, I propose art therapy reduces the perception or salience of stressors by reducing amygdala activity leading to decreased activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The art therapy literature and my hypothesis about its mechanisms of action became the basis of my proposed study. To assess the effectiveness of art therapy in alleviating symptoms of chronic disease, I am specifically targeting patients with cancer who exhibit a lack of emotional regulation. Saliva is collected 3 times a week on the day of intervention: morning after waking, afternoon, and evening. Stress levels are tested using one-hour art therapy sessions over the course of 3 months. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) assesses an individual's perceived stress and feelings in past and present situations, for the control and intervention group. To measure improvement in overall mood, 10 one-hour art sessions are performed on patients over 10 weeks. A one-hour discussion analyzing the participants' artwork follows each art session. The Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) assesses overall mood for the intervention and control groups. I created rationale and predictions based on the intended results of each experiment.
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Details

Title
  • A Mechanistic Model of Art Therapy
Contributors
Date Created
2018-05
Resource Type
  • Text
  • Machine-readable links