A pilot study assessing art therapy as a mental health intervention for subfertile women
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BACKGROUND Subfertility is a common but hidden source of anxiety, depressive symptoms and hopelessness. Counselling reduces this emotional burden and may even enhance the likelihood of pregnancy. Art therapy may be a useful intervention, because it facilitates the expression of feelings, both visually and verbally, and may ease emotional distress. METHODS Weekly 2-h art therapy group courses were held for a total of 21 subfertile women. The impact of subfertile women's support systems and barriers to coping were all explored. The effectiveness of art therapy was assessed using Beck Hopelessness, Depression and Anxiety Inventories, administered before and after participation, as well as a qualitative exit questionnaire. RESULTS The mean age of participants was 35.7 (SD 2.1) years and duration of infertility was 64 (12.0) months. Mean Beck Hopelessness Scale fell from 6.1 (3.8) to 3.5 (3.1, P = 0.01) after therapy. Beck Depression Inventory-II Score fell from 19.8 (11.0) to 12.5 (10.2, P = 0.01) and Beck Anxiety Inventory Score changed from 12.4 (8.4) to 8.4 (5.2, P = 0.3). Based on the exit questionnaire, women felt the course was insightful, powerful and enjoyable. CONCLUSIONS Art therapy is an inexpensive, non-pharmacological intervention, which was associated with decreased levels of hopelessness and depressed mood in subfertile women. It also provides insight into the meaning and emotional implications of subfertility for patients and caregivers. This pilot study highlights the need for further research in this field.
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