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Throughout history there has been considerable speculation about the possibility of a link between creative expression and mental distress. Plato described artistic talent as “madness that comes from God”, and Aristotle claimed that “all men who are outstanding in … the arts are melancholic”.1 In recent years the relationship betweenship creativity and mental distress has been explored in retrospective studies which have compared levels of mental disorder among successful artists with those among the general public. Andreasen2 reported that among a sample of 30 well known authors 24 had experienced depression, and 13 had received treatment for bipolar affective disorder. Schildkraut and colleagues3 reported that 40% of notable abstract expressionists sought treatment for mental disorder and 20% were hospitalised for psychiatric problems.
There has also been longstanding interest in the role that the creative arts may play in helping people adapt to, or recover from, mental disorder. Healthcare staff have used art materials, music and creative writing for many years, a tradition which is especially strong in China, Japan and other parts of the Far East. In Europe and the US, artists who were interested in the creative abilities of people who experience mental distress began working in asylums in the first half of the 20th century.1 However it was not until the 1940s that more formal efforts were made to combine the use of art materials and psychotherapy as the basis for “arts therapies”.4 Since then professional bodies have been established which regulate training of arts therapists. This includes a requirement to obtain a primary arts-based degree and specialist training in one of the arts therapies.
MECHANISM OF ACTION
Four main arts therapies are currently provided in the UK: art therapy, dance movement therapy, drama therapy, and music therapy. While each employs a variety of different techniques …
Competing interests: None declared.