The therapeutic effectiveness of creative activities on mental well-being: a systematic review of the literature

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2011 Aug;18(6):501-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2011.01693.x. Epub 2011 Feb 17.


The aim of this paper was to investigate the literature to ascertain the effectiveness of creative activities on mental well-being within the mental health context. Creative activities have always been evident within the context of mental health and there is increasing recognition that the arts have an important role to play in improving the health and well-being of individuals. Medline, Cinahl and PsycINFO were searched utilizing the keywords art, therap, well-being and mental health. The arts council data base was accessed and the Department of Health review of Arts for Health Working Group. Eleven studies were appraised by one reviewer utilizing the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme tool. It was difficult to make comparisons of the papers accessed as a result of the majority of studies being evaluative in nature and untaken within local projects therefore lacking in generalization. The evidence suggests that creative activities can have a healing and protective effect on mental well-being. Their therapeutic effects promote relaxation, provide a means of self-expression, reduce blood pressure while boosting the immune system and reducing stress. However, the evidence to support these claims is weak and assumptions were made that lacked reliability and validity. Establishing the benefit of participating in creative arts is difficult because of a lack of consistency of a clear definition, but it is important to identify the potential of creative arts as a therapeutic and transformational tools and not an intervention for therapeutic diversion.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Art Therapy / methods*
  • Art*
  • Creativity*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Treatment Outcome