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In 1999, nearly two decades ago, the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) (1999) issued a mission statement that outlined the organization's commitment to research, defined the preferential topics for this research, and suggested future research directions in the field. (2000) published a review of studies that addressed the therapeutic effectiveness of art therapy.They included studies that differed in terms of research quality and standards.They were unable to conduct a meta-analysis due to the clinical heterogeneity and lack of sufficient information in the studies.
The authors focused on describing different ways to use art therapy in this context and argued that there has been a gradual emergence of a vast body of knowledge that reinforces the benefits of art therapy for people working in stressful work environments.
In the past three years, a number of literature reviews of controlled quantitative studies have dealt more specifically with the issue of the effectiveness of art therapy in treating specific populations. (2015) overviewed quantitative studies in art therapy with adult trauma victims.
In the year 2000, an important art therapy literature review addressed an essential question—does art therapy work?
It discussed 17 articles dealing with the issue of the effectiveness of art therapy.
Since the field of art therapy is still young, the scope of research is limited and the quality of research is diverse, which makes it difficult to create a comparative review that presents the knowledge in the field and draws thorough conclusions.
Therefore, our review is based on the systematic review framework proposed in Case-Smith (2013) who divided the studies she reviewed into three levels of evidence.
Two decades later, the field of research in art therapy has developed considerably.
There are several reviews in the field that describe the expanding body of research work.
We applied the standard definition provided by the American Art Therapy Association: Art therapy, facilitated by a professional art therapist, effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals, as well as community concerns.
Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change (American Art Therapy Association, 2018).