A recent analysis has predicted that close to a million Americans will have died from contracting COVID-19 (Sullivan, 2021, para. 1). Unsurprisingly, the most vulnerable people, like those who have been incarcerated, have been hit the hardest (Brennan Center for Justice, 2020, para. 1). The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created additional stress affecting inmates both physically and mentally. Therefore, the maintenance of good mental health among inmates should be a concern. However, the nature of the correctional environment limits the therapeutic options available to health care professionals. Among the challenges mental health professionals face in ensuring quality care are a poor rapport between the care provider and client, having a client living in an environment where distressing factors are omnipresent, and a lack of resources (Gussak, 2015, p. 2). All of these issues are exacerbated when the client requiring mental health care is in the correctional system. Depression and anxiety are some of the most common disorders affecting the prison population. However, in the correctional system, therapies that have been found effective among a general population have been shown to not benefit 30% to 60% of clients (Abbing, Baars, Van Haastrecht, & Ponstein, 2019, p. 1). Effectively treating depression is of great concern because, as Gussak (2007) found, depression can lead to self-harming behaviors and suicide when left untreated (p. 2). Additionally, addressing and treating anxiety is of particular importance today as COVID-19 has been a significant source of distress; explicitly, one incarcerated journalist reported witnessing entire units of inmates experiencing high levels of anxiety and panic attacks (Popperl et al., 2020, para. 5). Thus, a critical review of the available literature can reveal the particular effectiveness of art therapy in treating depression and anxiety in prison populations. The impacts of implementing more effective therapies in the correctional system are a reduction in recidivism and successful reintegration into society. Consequently, this literature review will suggest a potential application of art therapy for improving the mental health of those incarcerated in the correctional system with the intent of engendering positive social impact.
- A Literature Review on the Effectiveness of Art Therapy for Treating Depression and Anxiety Among Individuals in the Correctional System