Involvement in creative practice is commonly regarded as “therapeutic” but what is actually meant by this and how does this work promote social inclusion and mental well-being, particularly when performed in a group setting? Drawing on the findings of a research project called Clay Transformations (AHRC), the purpose of this paper is to consider these questions. The project involved running a series of clay workshops aimed at people with experience of mental health service use and those who work with them.
In order to explore the significance of art involvement to people who use mental health services, qualitative research findings are presented. These are then linked to relevant literature in order to consider the way in which workshop participation helped to promote social inclusion and mental well-being.
Many benefits were gained from workshop attendance deriving from involvement in the process and the outcome of art creation. These benefits were enhanced by the group context in which the work took place and the mutual support and interaction arising from this group membership.
The recognition of the therapeutic value of creative practice has been accompanied by the emergence of the notion of “mutual recovery” which extends the concept of recovery beyond an individualised focus. The positive findings of this project uphold these developments and suggest that mental health practice should address the wider social contexts that can facilitate the promotion of mental well-being.
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