A Dyadic Art Psychotherapy Group for Parents and Infants: Piloting Quantitative Methodologies for Evaluation

Vicky Armstrong (Lead / Corresponding author), Egle Dalinkeviciute, Josephine Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper describes a pilot of art psychotherapy groups using a dyadic approach as an intervention for parents and infants in order to improve their relationships. The pilot was developed as a collaboration between an Art Psychotherapist and a Developmental Psychologist. It sought to use standardised measures of parental well-being and object relations as well as developing an observational tool that could be applied to video footage of groups to measure change in the duration of attachment behaviours across the span of the intervention. The paper demonstrates a positive change within the dyads’ relationships and the viability of evaluating groups using these measures. It will describe the process of developing the observational tool and argue for the next steps to be taken. Plain-language summary We are researching whether making art together in an art therapy group might help improve the bonding between parents and their young children. The experiences we have with our caregivers in the first years of life are crucial for our well-being for the rest of our lives. It makes a difference to have a caregiver who is emotionally available and who is responsive. We think that when infants and their parents make art together it encourages lots of positive behaviours between them that can help to improve the way they relate to each other–their attachment. Art encourages lots of joint looking and shared sensory experiences which can help them to communicate better and, importantly, to have fun together and enjoy each other’s company. Our research looked at an Art Therapy approach where a group of parents and infants did art and messy play together for 12 weeks with the support of a qualified art psychotherapist. We showed that there were improvements in the well-being of parents and in the way they viewed their relationships following the art therapy group and the change in well-being was statistically significant. We also measured the length of time each parent–infant pair spent engaged in behaviour that would be seen as positive for attachments and saw that this increased from the first to last session. This is really promising pilot evidence that Art Therapy might be a useful tool to help with struggling parents and their very young children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-124
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Art Therapy
Issue number3
Early online date28 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019


  • Art psychotherapy
  • attachments
  • dyadic
  • early years
  • groups
  • observational measures
  • parent–infant
  • quantitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Psychology


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