Arts Based Therapy (ABT) is use of art forms to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship. ABT derives theoretical base from a systematic training in Subtle Energy Guide from the Indian Mind Traditions, notably Buddhist Psychology and Ethics interfaced with information from neuroscience and developmental psychology. Interventions are designed as per the specific therapeutic goals for each participant. In ABT, the emphasis is on the process and the artistic outcomes are secondary. Playfulness ensures that there is no stress and no pressure. As a complementary therapy, it acknowledges the role of other therapies and approaches.
In a review of ABT projects across India, involving participants diagnosed with mental health concerns, who were engaged with ABT for a minimum period of 6 months, besides achieving specific individualized therapeutic goals, the overall therapeutic outcomes observed included better mood and affect than before, better comprehension of tasks, users opening up, showing interest and initiative, higher confidence and self-efficacy, improved communication, improved speech through storytelling and singing, improvement in perception and cognition, increase in attention span, increase in expression of emotions and effective symptom management.
Aanand Chabukswar is the key resource person for ABT sessions at SAA. He has spent 18 years along with a group of senior practitioners under the aegis of WCCL Foundation, Pune, contributing to the development of ABT model in India. He has practiced, taught, and supervised several ABT projects and trainings. His research and writings have been published internationally, with Routledge in UK/USA and in International Journals.
Between 2013 and 2015, regular ABT sessions were conducted by Aanand for service users at SAA’s Rehab Centre, over a period of eighteen months, which were, one of its kind, long-term interventions within India. A remarkable change in negative symptoms and general psychopathology was observed. During 2016-2018, also regular ABT sessions were continued at SAA’s Rehab Centre during which ABT was dovetailed with the therapeutic needs of each participant. A reduction in severity was reported in this phase also, even though symptoms were quite dissimilar to the earlier group. ABT positively impacted the ‘therapeutic needs’ of participant users.
Weekly, ABT sessions are now being conducted by Aanand for user survivors at SAA’s Rehab Centre under a 3 year project supported by Mariwalla Health Initiative (MHI). Under this Project, ABT sessions, complimentary to other rehab activities at the Centre, will address personalized therapeutic needs, within the context of individual patterns and possibilities of their healing/rehabilitation. Each group of 10 service users will go through 2 steps ABT intervention. In pilot period, ABT sessions will be conducted to familiarize the service users with ABT and to study their symptoms and concerns from ABT lens. Service users’ background will be studied and scripted and therapeutic goals for them will be determined. In the second phase which will be Intervention Period, artistic-communal engagement with the arts shall be aimed at specific prioritised therapeutic goals. Highlights and responses to artistic engagement, conversations, and insights would be noted down for each service user in form of SRS (Session Record Sheets)
Continuation of ABT in Third Phase (2019-2022) will make SAA’s Rehab Centre as the only centre in India to offer 9 years of ABT service to its service users. Progress report of each group will be generated at the end of each group’s intervention period in year 1 and 2. At the end of year 3, case studies will be collated and reported in the form of a booklet in a story and case-report format in Marathi and English. This booklet will be disseminated to mental health institutions, caregivers, and other stakeholders. It will include, the overall approach: arts and mental health, key points, tools and methods of ABT found useful in mental health, stories of service users who were engaged with ABT, and found it useful and understanding and insights from the stories.