Examining arts psychotherapies practice elements: Early findings from the Horizons Project — by Dominik Havsteen-Franklin, Anna Maratos, Miriam Usiskin & Mary Heagney

Special Issue 8 (1) 2016 “Music, drama, dance movement and art therapy: Interdisciplinary dialogues” – Article (first published on 24 March 2016)

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Examining arts psychotherapies practice elements: Early findings from the Horizons Project

Dominik Havsteen-Franklin, Anna Maratos, Miriam Usiskin & Mary Heagney


Background: Arts Psychotherapies (art, music, drama and dance/movement) have been integral to mental health care services for several decades, however consensus and transparency about the clinical process is still being established. This study investigates practice with a team of six arts psychotherapists working with severe mental illnesses in London, inpatient and community services. The study examines what in-session practice elements are used, whether there is consensus about what the practice elements are and why the arts therapists use them.  

Method: The methods employed in the first phase of the project are interview-based with thematic analysis, repertory grid technique and nominal group techniques used to analyse the data with the aim of triangulating results to establish greater validity.

Results: The results showed that there is scope for developing a shared language about in-session practice elements within a mental health context. However the research examining the timing and reasons for employing those practice elements is still being undertaken. In this study the first results from an extract of the interviews illustrates a complex relationship between theory and practice.

Conclusion: From the findings so far it would appear that within this specific context it is possible to see that there are ways of categorising the therapist’s actions that becomes comparable across the arts psychotherapies. From the therapist’s personal descriptions of his or her own practice, there also appears to be a close correlation between arts psychotherapies in a mental health community and inpatient context. Additionally, evidence-based practice models such as mentalisation-based therapies appear to have a close correlation.


arts therapies, mental health, repertory grid, nominal group technique, consensus, evidence, mentalising


Dominik Havsteen-Franklin is Consultant in Arts Psychotherapies for CNWL NHS Foundation Trust and Head of ICAPT (The International Centre for Arts Psychotherapies Training in Mental Health) He is responsible for developing and implementing clinical training and leading on the research arm of ICAPT. He also works as a clinical supervisor in the NHS and in private practice.
Email: dominik.havsteen-franklin@nhs.net

Anna Maratos is Head of Arts Psychotherapies for a large organisation within the UK National Health Service, based in central London. She has been involved in empirical research in the arts therapies since 2007 when she completed a Cochrane review of music therapy for depression and a randomised trial of music therapy for schizophrenia. Since then she has been supporting the development of demonstrably effective models of practice aligned to the client, through the ICAPT and other initiatives.

Miriam Usiskin is Senior Lecturer on the MA Art Therapy and Programme Leader for the Arts Therapies and Wellbeing Foundation at the University of Hertfordshire.  She worked in the NHS as a Head Art Therapist and now works both with statutory and charitable organisations as an Art Psychotherapist and clinical supervisor.

Mary Heagney is an art therapist graduate from the University of Hertfordshire. She works within a CAMHS in SEPT NHS Foundation Trust with looked after children. She has a special interest in mentalisation and attachment and researching evidence-based models for arts therapies. Mary was also an Honorary Research Officer with the CNWL Horizons Project team.