Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2024

Primary Advisor

Ulrich Koch, PhD


Background: While art therapy has shown value in treating mental health and physical concerns, the complexity of linking the arts to health outcomes poses difficulties. Health outcomes are multifaceted and challenging to quantify, an effort made more difficult with the inclusion of the arts. Engaging neuroscience offers critical insights concerning art therapy’s effectiveness in addressing trauma symptoms and sequela. The absence of scientifically informed practice strategies compromises the precision and generalizability of services, limits accessibility, and poses a barrier to accessible healthcare. Translating neuroscience insights into art therapy clinical practice strategies is an ethical obligation that supports effective trauma-informed care, empowers clinicians, and improves the research to practice pipeline. The overall objective of this study was to develop and test a Knowledge Translation (KT) strategy in the form of an interactive web-based toolkit of neuroscience-informed art therapy practice strategies for the treatment of psychological trauma.

Study Population: The study comprised various stakeholders, including art therapy clinicians and educators, and a panel of expert neuroscientists, art therapists, and patient representatives. An end stakeholder group of art therapy clinicians was also included. By incorporating input from these diverse participants, the study aimed to gather insights and recommendations that reflect the multidimensional nature of the subject matter, ultimately contributing to a robust and nuanced understanding of the topic.

Methods: This study used a sequential mixed methods embedded design that followed a sequential order of three phases. The first two qualitative phases preceded the last phase that gathered quantitative and qualitative data. A quantitative feasibility measure was embedded, or nested, within the last phase of the design to explore, understand, and enhance the qualitative findings of the study (Creswell & Zhang, 2009). Quantitative and qualitative data were integrated during the final analysis phase to provide a comprehensive understanding of the research questions (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2017). The rationale for collecting both types of data was to obtain a deeper understanding of the critical factors necessary to develop and refine the toolkit innovation, assess its face validity and utility, and understand the barriers and facilitators to future dissemination strategies and implementation testing.

Results: The three-phase mixed methods study yielded several key findings. The qualitative analysis, comprising open, axial, and selective coding and thematic analysis, identified recurrent patterns in art therapists' perspectives on neuroscience and what they want and need in a toolkit of practice recommendations. The data indicated that art therapists welcomed neuroscience and perceived it as crucial to their work. Art therapists saw that neuroscience was empowering for clinicians and clients, helped to destigmatize mental healthcare, and was essential for advocacy. These themes inform three primary components of the toolkit: Foundational Knowledge, Assessment, and Intervention. The components were designed to be flexible, adaptive, and responsive to individual client needs, were grounded in neuroscience principles and evidence-based practices and integrated with ethical and cultural considerations. The toolkit components were reviewed by the expert panel who made recommendations that the researcher used to develop a prototype for the KT innovation. The toolkit was used for a month by an end stakeholder group of 55 art therapists, 90% of whom completed a feasibility measure and qualitative questions that gathered insights on the barriers and facilitators to its use in practice. The quantitative data from the three feasibility scales, measured using a 5-point Likert scale, collectively indicated high acceptability (4.5/5), appropriateness (4.2/5), and feasibility (3.8/5) of the intervention. The overall average score was 4.10/5. These values indicated positive perceptions of the toolkit among participants and suggested areas for improvement in the feasibility of the intervention. The qualitative data further confirmed the positive reception of the toolkit. Participant responses were collected and categorized to promote an understanding of how to improve the toolkit's feasibility. Suggestions included enhancing user engagement, simplifying complex steps, and improving its overall structure and organization. Overall, participants expressed anticipation and excitement about the potential impact of the toolkit as a knowledge translation strategy for art therapists to use in clinical practice and as an educational resource when working with those exposed to trauma.

Conclusion: The toolkit product successfully integrated and then translated evidence-based knowledge to end users that was practical, acceptable, and feasible. Clear recommendations for modifying the toolkit properties provide a direct path for future implementation research on a wider scale and with diverse stakeholder groups. Implementation testing would broaden the impact of the KT strategy and enhance the translational impact of systematically integrating neuroscience and art therapy theory, practice, and research.


©2024 by Juliet L. King. All rights reserved.

Open Access


Available for download on Tuesday, April 22, 2025

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