Child art psychotherapy in CAMHS: Which cases are referred and which cases drop out?

Springerplus. 2016 Oct 19;5(1):1816. doi: 10.1186/s40064-016-3509-2. eCollection 2016.


Background: The Vasarhelyi method of child art psychotherapy (CAP) is offered at certain Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Children attend three introductory sessions, and then choose to continue weekly CAP or conclude the sessions.

Aims: This study aims to identify the clinical disorders and characteristics of patients referred to CAP, and to determine who engages with the therapy.

Methods: A retrospective review of the clinical records of 67 children who attended CAP in DNCC/Mater CAMHS over 13 years was performed. The data was analysed using Microsoft Excel 12.0 and SPSS version 20.

Results: 67 children (57 % male and 43 % female) aged 5-17 years participated in CAP with an average age of 10.6 years. Children attended an average of 14 sessions of CAP, with a range of 1-61 sessions (mean of 13.8 ± 12.9 sessions). Anxiety disorder (28 %), behaviour disorder/ODD (25 %), and ADHD (21 %) are the most common diagnoses referred. These diagnoses along with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) had the highest overall engagement, while those with depression engaged the least. Children with ADHD and with ASD attended high numbers of sessions (with a mean of 23 and 19 respectively). Those who experienced acute life events or difficulties in the home engaged well (60 and 40 % respectively). There was no significant difference found in the percentage of appointments attended by males in comparison to females.

Conclusion: CAP is generally acceptable to children, with a high average attendance rate. It was noted that children with ADHD and with ASD engaged well with the therapy for prolonged periods, whereas children with depression did not engage so well. We suggest that CAMHS clinics should consider referring children diagnosed with ADHD and children diagnosed with ASD to CAP as an adjunct to other therapies. We suggest that individuals with depression should be referred initially to other therapeutic services as the engagement with CAP was relatively poor.

Keywords: Adolescent; Child; Child art psychotherapy; Psychiatry; Psychotherapeutic modality.