The use of arts-based methodologies and methods with young people with complex psychosocial needs: A systematic narrative review

Publication Name

Health Expectations


Background: Arts-based methodologies and methods (ABM) can elicit rich and meaningful data with seldom-heard groups and empower participants in research. Young people with complex psychosocial needs could be better engaged in research using arts-based approaches to overcome communication and literacy issues as well as distrust of those with power, including researchers. A critical review of the use and impact of ABM among this population is timely. The purpose of this review is to synthesize and examine the experience and use of ABM with young people with complex psychosocial needs. Methods: A systematic narrative literature review was conducted with a search of the literature from 2009 to 2021. All abstracts were reviewed independently by two authors and full papers were screened for eligibility against inclusion and exclusion criteria. Data synthesis focused on a descriptive numerical summary and a thematic analysis focused on key patterns across papers relating to the review objectives. Results and Discussion: A total of 25 papers were included. The most common issues of focus were mental health (n = 10) and homelessness (n = 11) and methods using Photovoice (n = 12) and Body Mapping (n = 5). Individual interview data (n = 20) were the most commonly analysed, followed by created works (n = 19). Less than half the studies involved young people in the interpretation of the data collected. Knowledge translation was not described in almost half the studies, with public exhibits (n = 7) and forums with service providers (n = 4) being the most common activities. Key themes across the studies were valued over traditional methods in eliciting data, ABM as an approach to engage these young people in research and the impact of the use of ABM on participants and on key stakeholders through knowledge translation. Conclusions: The growing field of ABM presents opportunities to enhance research with young people with complex psychosocial needs by promoting meaningful exploration of experiences, engaging participants in research and strengthening knowledge translation. The involvement of young people in the interpretation of data and ensuring that knowledge translation occurs are key areas for future attention. Patient or Public Contribution: The findings of this review will inform future research to improve the engagement of young people with complex psychosocial needs in research and promote power sharing between researchers and research participants.

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National Health and Medical Research Council



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