Art Educational Therapy - Research Project

Art educational therapy (AET) originated in relation to Unnur Ottarsdottir’s doctoral thesis, entitled Art Therapy in Education. Children with Specific Learning Difficulties as a Result of Stress and/or Trauma. Participants in the study were compulsory school students in Iceland who grappled with specific learning difficulties and had experienced stress and/or trauma. The children were selected in regard to their school grades as well as from data gathered through interviews with staff of the school in which the study took place. The aim of the study was to develop, design, study and test an art therapy method which would facilitate children's coursework learning and enhance emotional well-being.

Research Data

Participants in the study were five children aged between 11-14. The data, which was gathered according to the case-study research method, was extracted from a total of 123 therapy session. A grounded theory research methodology was applied to analyse the data which in turn shaped the theoretical foundation of art educational therapy.

The Theory of Art Educational Therapy

The theory of art educational therapy (AET) is based partly on theories regarding writing images and memory drawings. During therapy sessions, coursework is integrated into art therapy within the theoretical framework of AET, art therapy and educational psychotherapy (which observes the causal relationship between emotional aspects and specific learning difficulties).

The Effectiveness of Art Educational Therapy

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of art educational therapy (AET), a comparison was made between art works, school grades and findings from psychological tests conducted at the beginning and end of the therapy.

Three of the five children who participated in the study and received AET underwent a Wechsler III IQ test both before and after therapy. The test results showed that the IQ of all participating children had increased at the completion of the therapy. One of the children showed a 16-point increase, which constitutes a significant difference. An analysis of the test results before and after therapy showed that if therapy is received over a certain time period, it positively impacts coursework learning. The children’s parents also filled in a questionnaire regarding the children’s behaviour before and after therapy. The findings showed that the all of the children had progressed in various aspects related to their behaviour and emotional well-being.