The effectiveness of art therapy in reducing depression in prison populations

Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2007 Aug;51(4):444-60. doi: 10.1177/0306624X06294137.


Major obstacles block the effectiveness of therapy in prison. Many inmates have an inherent mistrust for verbal disclosure. Rigid defenses exist for basic survival. Despite these defenses, there has been support for art therapy as a valuable tool. Unfortunately, there has been little research to measure the effectiveness of art therapy in prison. Two quantitative studies were initiated in a North Florida prison to measure the effectiveness of art therapy with inmates, specifically in decreasing depressive symptoms. This article will present a pilot and follow-up study. The methods, including the Formal Elements Art Therapy Scale (FEATS) and the Beck Depression Inventory-Short Form, will be delineated. What was revealed was that although the FEATS proved more effective as a measurement tool for the pilot than for the follow-up study, ultimately, the results reflected a significant decrease in depressive symptoms in those inmates who participated in the program.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Art Therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Treatment Outcome