From education to employment

Project wins funding to train NHS to tackle depression through arts

therapy group in a hall

A pioneering project which uses the arts to tackle depression has been awarded new funding to develop a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training package for organisations and practitioners.

Arts for the Blues is a creative arts therapy model that offers safe ways of using the arts for mental health and wellbeing, supporting people experiencing depression, low mood and anxiety. The model for groupwork uses a range of creative approaches – including visual art, creative writing, music, drama, dance and movement – that can be adapted to different people’s needs. 

The team behind the project, which includes experts from the University of Salford and Edge Hill University, has been awarded £50,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to develop a CPD package. The two-day course, supported by a website and reflective practice group, will train organisations and practitioners to deliver the model within their service, increasing the reach of the project.

Professor Scott Thurston, Professor of Poetry and Innovative Creative Practice at the University of Salford, and lead-investigator on the project, said:

“Arts for the Blues is starting to have a significant impact across the North West, addressing health inequalities in a really unique way.  We’re absolutely thrilled to receive this funding which will enable us to spread the word about creative therapies more widely.”

Professor Thurston co-founded the project alongside Dr Joanna Omylinska-Thurston at the University of Salford, as well as Professor Vicky Karkou at Edge Hill University.

Professor Karkou said:

“It’s really exciting to see Arts for the Blues go from strength to strength and this funding is another significant boost for the project. We are already sharing our work with interested parties internationally, via our links with the World Health Organisation, and there is a great need for alternative approaches to mental health care almost everywhere. Creativity and the arts can make a huge difference.”

Dr Omylinska-Thurston said:

“I’ve worked for the NHS for twenty-five years and it means a lot to me that we can now train psychological therapists in local organisations and in the NHS and hopefully contribute an exciting innovation to existing provision across services in our region. We know that creative approaches can help to reach some of the most disadvantaged members of our community to whom talking therapy does not always appeal.”

Arts for the Blues is based on eight ‘key ingredients’ that can help people change in a positive way: encouraging active engagement, learning skills, developing relationships, expressing emotions, processing at a deeper level, gaining understanding, experimenting with different ways of being and integrating useful material. It works in four phases: introduction, encouraging strengths, addressing difficulties, and closure.

The model is based on a mixture of academic research, public input, contributions from NHS staff and service users and artistic work, and has been piloted in-person and online with the NHS, in the community, and in schools.

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