Art and Employee Wellbeing

The benefits of the mental well-being at work ‘booster’

Yesterday I received assessor feedback on my dissertation recommending that I publish my results on my recent thesis. It’s interesting to consider the  impact that positive feedback can have on us. Today I am at my computer, reconnecting with this project when yesterday I was quite happy to prep my bedroom for painting. While doing my research one of the studies that stood out in my mind looked at the impact of a vacation on the mental well-being of workers. It suggested that for three weeks post-vacation workers were on a productive/ positive wave, yet after those three weeks they returned to baseline. Today on Radio 4, I also listened to two women authors who spoke of their sense of dejection rather than elation when a novel was finally finished – a project vacuum emptiness of ‘well…now what do I do?’ Together these thoughts made me think about ‘well-being at work programmes’, the overall costs of running programmes, the potential dis-elation when they finish. It seems to me that ‘booster session’ (as evidence by my own renewed interest and focus as a result of external feed-back) to re-energise our engagement may be all we need, not a daily rah-rah- rah, but just a slow, regular drip from the positive re-enforcement intravenous…

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Mental Wellbeing in the workplace. What evidence supports a role for art therapy as an effective intervention?


Mental well-being in the workplace is an issue of increasing government, organisational and business interest as the social and economic costs of challenges to mental well-being are increasingly recognised.  Supporting mental well-being in the workplace is, however, a complex intervention challenge. In contrast to the illness-model approach of previous stress-based interventions, new research suggests that proactive, wellness modelled interventions provide a more appropriate solution for the support and enhancement of employee mental well-being.

In response to the need to identify intervention approaches which can proactively and successfully respond to this multi-faceted issue, the objective of this research was to identify what evidence supports art therapy as an effective mental well-being in the workplace intervention.

To achieve this objective, this study employed a thematic analysis of primary research on mental well-being in the workplace and art therapy interventions with adult, non-clinical populations. The research captured evidence from a wide range of both qualitative and quantitative studies to reflect the ‘meaningfulness’ that is criticised for being lost by traditional systematic reviews. By synthesising themes between studies, this research identified the characteristics that support and challenge both employee mental well-being and intervention success.

A logic model was also designed and used to illustrate the findings of the research.

The first hypothesis, that art therapy is a sufficiently flexible intervention to respond to the complex mental-wellbeing needs of work-place populations was partially supported by the findings of the study. The second hypothesis, that art therapy is a sufficiently flexible technique to approach well-being from a proactive-wellness model of intervention was supported by the findings.

The findings indicate a high level of cross-over between the characteristics of both art therapy interventions and successful individual-level mental well-being in the workplace interventions. These characteristics included providing interventions which are meaningful, empowering and enjoyable.

The findings of this research indicate support for art therapy as an effective individual-level, mental-well-being in the workplace intervention; highlighting areas of both efficacy and challenge. Although the results are promising, more field research is needed to explore the use of art therapy with workplace populations.