The evidence base for art therapy with parent and infant dyads: An integrative literature review

Josephine Ross, Victoria Gray Armstrong (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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We aimed to evaluate the existing evidence base for the efficacy of art therapy with parent-infant dyads. We undertook an integrative review, following the PRISMA protocol, systematically searching 4 electronic databases, and grey literature, for papers describing art therapy with parents and infants together. 14 papers were identified for inclusion. These were evaluated for quality, data was synthesised for evidence of change, and we undertook a narrative synthesis of intervention model and thematic analysis drawing together mechanisms of change within the art therapy process. Papers described a group approach to art therapy and contained a mixture of methodological approaches. Themes highlighted the beneficial aspects of the art therapy process that might be common to group psychotherapy approaches and those which were unique to art making, such as the qualities of the materials, the making process and the final art works. The themes identified provide a basis for further research into mechanisms of change within parent-infant art therapy. Those papers which presented quantitative evidence demonstrated promising evidence for the value of art therapy but we identify the need for larger participant numbers and control measures, for this evidence to confidently state the impact of art therapy. Plain language summary This paper is based on a review of the current evidence for an art therapy approach to working with parents and their infants together. We searched data bases and other online sources and put out calls for unpublished work to art therapy organisations. We looked for art therapy for parents together with their 0–3s and this could be with the individual pairs or with groups. We reviewed the papers we found and 14 were included in the final stage of this review. We have compared their models for art therapy work and their results and we have also looked for the common themes about why art therapy seems to be helping in order to provide a solid basis for future research in this area. We think there is promising early evidence that art therapy can help parents and infants in a number of areas, such as building the parent-infant relationship and improving parental well-being but this research highlights the need for further, larger scale and controlled studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-118
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Art Therapy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2020


  • Art therapy
  • dyadic
  • infant
  • parent
  • review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Psychology


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