Art therapy has become known by its psychosocial and affective impact, but not so much by its effects on cognitive functioning. Based on a comparison between art therapy and music-making programs, we hypothesized that guided methods—dominant in music-making programs and characterized by an emphasis on execution (play the piece, produce the visual object) rather than ideation (conceive the visual object)—could boost the cognitive effects of art-making. We also hypothesized that removing ideation from the process with guided methods could decrease psychosocial/affective benefits. In order to test our hypotheses, we compared the effects of two art therapy methods on cognitive vs. psychosocial/affective domains. We implemented a short-term longitudinal study with patients with schizophrenia showing both psychosocial/affective and cognitive deficits. The sample was divided into two groups: unguided, instructed to ideate art pieces and execute them without external guidance, vs. guided, instructed to execute predefined art pieces following externally provided guidelines. There was no evidence that guided methods boost cognitive effects, since these were equivalent across groups. However, psychosocial/affective benefits were enhanced by unguided methods, suggesting that therapeutic methods can make a difference. Our study contributes to raising important new questions concerning the therapeutic mechanisms of art therapy.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited