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Art Therapy for Schizophrenia

By

Gina Garippo

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

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Outpatient Treatment Options for Schizophrenia

Finding the right treatment option can go a long way toward helping your loved one stick with their treatment plan.
man, painting, art therapy, therapy, art

People with schizophrenia often have a difficult time communicating thoughts and feelings. Sometimes they feel threatened, isolate themselves, and avoid social interactions.

Although standard treatment options such as medication and psychotherapy can improve these symptoms, they don’t take them away completely. As a result, experts look to other types of treatment. Some believe that art therapy, used in addition to standard treatment options, may provide benefits to people with schizophrenia.   

How Art Therapy Works

Facilitated by an art therapist, this therapy is a way people can express themselves creatively. Art therapy is usually conducted in a group setting in which patients paint, draw, sculpt, and participate in other artistic activities. The therapist can later assess a person’s artwork to gain insight into his or her world.  

Benefits to People with Schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia tend to resist standard treatment. They may suffer from a lack of interest in many things and tend to isolate themselves. In art therapy, people can explore their feelings in a non-confrontational way. They can also gain social skills and feel better about themselves.  

Some studies regarding the effect of art therapy on people with schizophrenia have found it can:

  • Increase self-esteem

  • Reduce negative symptoms, such as lack of motivation, lack of drive, and lack of communication

  • Reduce social and emotional withdrawal

Art therapy also can help people with schizophrenia better understand their thoughts and feelings. For example, people may be willing to illustrate their frustrations and feelings through art instead of them talking them through with a counselor or acting on them.

Conflicting Recommendations

4 Tips for Preventing a Schizophrenia Relapse

If your doctor has prescribed psychosocial therapy, make sure you participate.

Current national guidelines for treating schizophrenia include the use of art therapy. The guidelines state that providers should consider offering art therapy to all schizophrenia patients to help alleviate negative symptoms. However, not all researchers agree that the therapy can help people with schizophrenia. Others advocate different alternative treatments, such as exercise, to improve negative symptoms.

One study found that people undergoing weekly art therapy sessions did not show improvements in functioning or mental health. The researchers did say, however, that the therapy may be beneficial if used along with other treatments.  

Although the benefits of art therapy are still debated, most experts agree it can improve social interaction with others. Ask your loved one’s doctor about art therapy groups in your area.

Key Takeaways:

  • Facilitated by an art therapist, therapy is usually conducted in a group setting in which patients paint, draw, sculpt, and participate in other artistic activities. The therapist can later assess a person’s artwork to gain insight into his or her world. 

  • Some studies have found that art therapy can increase self-esteem, reduce negative symptoms, and reduce social and emotional withdrawal in people with schizophrenia.

  • Current national guidelines for treating schizophrenia include the use of art therapy.

Was this helpful? (4)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 20, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Group art therapy as adjunct therapy for the treatment of schizophrenic patients in day hospital. G Gaji. Vohnosanitetski Pregled. 2013; 70(11): 1065–1069.
  2. Group art therapy as an adjunctive treatment for people with schizophrenia: multicentre pragmatic randomised trial. M Crawford. British Medical Journal. February 2012, vol. 344: :e846.
  3. What is Art Therapy? American Art Therapy Association, Accessed Jan. 4, 2014.  http://www.arttherapy.org/upload/whatisarttherapy.pdf
  4. Guideline Summary NGC-7181, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Accessed Jan. 4, 2014.  http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=14313

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