Experiences of recovery among adults with a mental illness using visual art methods: A systematic review

Publication Name

Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing


What is known on the subject?: Arts-based research is an established and accepted research approach and systematic reviews have been published on this methodology. There are many possible data collection techniques and study designs within arts-based research, which have been implemented but not yet systematically reviewed. Rationales and challenges for arts-based research have covered participants’ experiences of being in arts-based studies in health service research. What the paper adds to existing knowledge?: The main results of this systematic review are that mental health recovery concepts are effectively communicated by visual arts-based research and participation in these studies is progressive and connecting for mental health consumers. This paper adds new knowledge about participants’ experiences specifically in visual arts-based studies, where the participants are mental health consumers. The results are significant because they support visual arts-based research in its development and popularity, both as a research approach and as an empowerment intervention. What are the implications for practice?: The results of this systematic review can enhance the fields of qualitative research methods and mental health nursing. Recommendations for professional development can be advanced from consumers’ ideas and experiences of recovery reported in this review. Nurse scientists and consumer researchers can take into consideration visual arts-based data collection techniques for use as research and empowerment interventions with mental health consumer participants. Abstract: Introduction: Art creation has been found to be therapeutic to mental health consumers, making the prospect of art creation's conceivable benefits as a mental health research strategy worthy of consideration. Aim: This systematic review aims to explore experiences of recovery among adults with a mental illness using visual art methods. Method: Following a comprehensive database search, 14 suitable studies were identified. These involved adult participants with a formal mental health diagnosis, or who self-identify as having a mental illness. The studies employed arts-based methodologies with participant-created, visual art as their data. Articles underwent data extraction and quality appraisal with the JBI-QARI (Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument). Results: Results were categorised and further aggregated into two synthesised findings according to Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) guidelines. The synthesised findings are: (1) Creative artmaking enables the use of visual metaphors which can aid expression of feelings, externalisation of identity, and personal learning, and (2) Interpersonal and self-connectedness through inclusion in community, receiving support when needed, and progressing through loss, are beneficial for mental health recovery. Discussion: These findings are comparable to those already existing in the literature, and suggest that visual arts-based research methods are as dependable as other qualitative research methods. Additionally, this systematic review reveals that when conducting research studies, there are benefits for mental health consumer participants when visual arts-based methods are used. Implications for practice: A visual arts-based research intervention can be concluded to have the effect of an empowerment intervention, as well as being a credible research method.

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