Art therapy and art education can contribute to student well-being


The doctoral thesis focuses on the academic factors that affect the subjective well-being of school-aged children and how art can contribute to the well-being of students. The aim was to identify academic factors that affect student well-being and to describe the potential of the arts to contribute to that well-being through art therapy and art education.

The first therapeutic intervention aimed at improving the well-being of students through art was carried out in 2003 at the Tallinn University Health Research Laboratory on school-aged girls. Participants said that the therapeutic process aided by the arts (music, drawing) helped them discover themselves and relieve stress and described the experience as interesting and useful. The vibroacoustic therapy provided a pleasant bodily experience as the low frequency sounds induce physical sensations. The music used by the researchers helped the participants focus on their thoughts and had a calming effect. It was said that drawing was relaxing and helped them discover themselves. The aforementioned artistic components have contributed to the well-being of the students by improving the general functioning of the girls.

From 2014, schools started hiring Creative Therapists. The number of Creative Therapists working in schools was highest during the 2017/2018 school year. Five of these therapists with whom schools had signed employment contracts participated in the research. School principals were also involved. In order to support the students, the therapists used individual preventive and curative measures, psychoeducational groups and therapeutic recreation programs (healing, recovery, refreshment and mood support). They used art therapy assessment, which helped them track the goal and effectiveness of therapy, and consulted and trained teachers, support specialists, and parents. Through interviews with therapists and school executives, six categories describing the specificities of art therapy in schools emerged: active and creative, various forms of work, therapeutic courses, calming and relaxing effects, therapeutic relationships and support. during adaptation. These categories highlight how art therapy differs from other support services offered by schools.

Based on the Randvere School example, the thesis describes music-based teaching activities. The musical activities used by teachers can be divided into five categories according to their objectives: 1) restorative and transformative activities that help students to self-regulate; 2) listening, concentration and memorization activities, which develop cognitive abilities; 3) activities that simplify learning and arouse student interest or incorporate a variety of topics; 4) music as a reward; and 5) socialization activity. The teachers emphasized that the application of the arts (music) in education does not require artistic training. The important thing is that the teachers themselves like to make music. Teachers believed that the potential of music to improve student well-being was related to its being refreshing and emotionally and relationshipally supportive.

The doctoral thesis connected two areas of research: research on academic factors that affect student well-being and research describing the potential of the arts to improve well-being, with a focus on art therapy and teaching through art. The therapeutic approach as a support service in schools is gaining in popularity, which is why it is extremely important to clearly describe the areas of work of art therapists in schools; it is equally essential to describe the benefits of art therapy in achieving the educational goals of the school, as perceived by school leaders. One of the possible measures to improve the well-being of students through education is the application of teaching through the arts method.

The main objective, however, is to present the opportunities for creative therapy in schools to the Ministry of Education and Research and school leaders. Creative Therapists apply a therapeutic approach to supporting students in school and can assist and advise teachers in teaching through the arts.

The thesis was supervised by Professor Eha Rüütel of the University of Tallinn. Opponents are Associate Professor Kristi Kõiv of the University of Tartu and Professor Merike Sisask of the University of Tallinn.


Estonian Research Council

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