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Is There a Biofeedback Response to Art Therapy?: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Reducing Anxiety and Stress in College Students

Although the field of art therapy has made enormous headway in quantitative research within the last ten years, there are still significant gaps that need explored. Most quantitative research on art therapy and stress is organized in either pretest-posttest single sessions or multi-week, rigorous art therapy interventions. Researchers have failed to address an intervention strategy that meets in the middle, a strategy that emphasizes mental health as a habitual practice. Mindfulness and art therapy independently demonstrate efficacy in reducing stress and symptoms of anxiety with higher-education students, but again, these interventions require a substantial time commitment that many students will not make. To address the mental health crisis on college campuses, this study evaluated the feasibility of a minimal contact, technology-assisted Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy (MBAT) intervention for higher-level education students over the course of ten weeks. The experimental MBAT group was compared to a neutral clay task (NCT) comparison group. Participants of the MBAT condition were provided a variety of yoga videos and meditation clips, which have been uploaded as supplementary files associated with this manuscript. These supplementary files include: MBAT Week 2 Meditation, MBAT Week 3 Yoga Sequence, MBAT Week 4 Meditation, MBAT Week 5 Meditation, MBAT Week 6 Yoga Sequence, MBAT Week 7 Meditation, MBAT Week 8 Yoga Sequence, and MBAT Week 9 Meditation. All meditations are audio files adapted by Dr. Sean Sullivan from Limbix; the researcher, Megan Beerse, produced all yoga sequence videos. Self-report outcomes were collected on perceived stress and levels of generalized anxiety. Salivary cortisol sampling was conducted on the first and last weeks of the study to determine any presence of a physiological impact on participants. Fifteen participants were recruited and nine maintained participation through all 10 weeks. Reduced symptoms of generalized anxiety were observed in the MBAT condition but not the NCT condition. MBAT participants’ salivary cortisol concentrations significantly decreased pretest to posttest on Week 10 but not on the first week, while the NCT participants experienced the opposite. Further data is needed, but results suggest the possibility of a biofeedback response to art therapy as well as anxiety-reducing benefits from practicing mindfulness-based art therapy directives in the form of a minimal contact, technology-assisted approach. / A Thesis submitted to the Department of Art Education in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science. / Summer Semester 2018. / June 29, 2018. / Anxiety, Art Therapy, College Students, Cortisol, Mindfulness, Stress / Includes bibliographical references. / Theresa Van Lith, Professor Directing Thesis; David E. Gussak, Committee Member; Gregg Stanwood, Committee Member; Barbara Parker-Bell, Committee Member.
ContributorsBeerse, Megan E. (author), Van Lith, Theresa (professor directing thesis), Gussak, David (committee member), Stanwood, Gregg (committee member), Parker-Bell, Barbara Faye (committee member), Florida State University (degree granting institution), College of Fine Arts (degree granting college), Department of Art Education (degree granting departmentdgg)
PublisherFlorida State University
Source SetsFlorida State University
LanguageEnglish, English
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeText, text, master thesis
Format1 online resource (101 pages), computer, application/pdf

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