A healing space : a museum-based workshop for the promotion of psychological wellbeing in college students




Cahill Casiano, Iris Anne Xiomara

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An increasing number of college and university students are experiencing considerable challenges to their psychological wellbeing, including depressive symptomatology and high levels of perceived stress. The current pilot study addresses the growing need for the promotion of wellbeing in college students through the use an innovative workshop that integrates narrative approaches with therapeutic art-viewing to take treatment out of overburdened campus counseling centers and into an alternative space: campus art galleries and museums. While some extant research has touched on the healing potential of museum-based interventions, there has been little exploration on its use with college students. The current mixed-methods study examined the effects of a four-session workshop designed to help students alter negative life-stories by using engagement with art objects as points of discovery for positive personal narratives. Fifteen participants (n=15) were drawn from a convenience sample of students from the University of Texas at Austin; inclusion criteria included a minimum score of “5” on the PHQ-9, a validated measure of depressive symptom severity. Pre- and posttest measures were collected on primary variables of interest over the course of the workshop, including measures for depressive symptomatology, perceived stress, and level of insight/self-reflection. Paired sample t-tests revealed statistically significant improvements in key variables of interest, while qualitative data gathered during and post treatment revealed several clinically relevant themes to suggest that this innovative, arts-based intervention encouraged positive shifts in personal narratives and bolstered mental wellbeing among participants.


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