Research Questions & Aims


  • How do we construct our reality? Can this process be manipulated through medications? If so, what are the implications for the authenticity of self for someone who has had such treatment?


  • How does creativity relate to mental health and how does a search for the poetic help mental health patients?


  • What are the benefits of art/science research projects and how can artists make a difference to social science qualitative research projects?


  • Can creative art methods capture aspects of patient experience relevant to psychiatric research that are beyond the reach of reductionist psychometric measurement?




The aim of the study was to help us understand some of the effects of antidepressants and how people recover from depression. This work was set in the context of a rapidly expanding knowledge of how the brain processes emotional stimuli, how these processes are affected by depression, and how these processes change in response to treatment. People with depression show characteristic changes in the way they perceive the world around them, particularly the way they interpret emotional stimuli, for example interpreting facial expressions in others. To inform future directions of research in this area this innovative art/science collaboration explored experiential changes during treatment with antidepressants. In addition to the aims of the psychiatrists, the artists were keen to explore the role of preverbal language and creativity for patients navigating the “in-between-ness” from depression to recovery. This was informed by concepts of preverbal language and ‘in-between-ness’ (Heald, K. 2014), and ‘psychological resonance’ (Liggett, S. 2008).


Karen Heald’s and Susan Liggett’s art practice acts as a personal rationale in their approach to the research. Initial research questions stemmed from the issues arising from their artwork, but now these questions have been recognised by the medical profession and are validated by the psychiatrists and social scientists they are collaborating with. This external rationale now drives their art practice as they make new artworks in response to the situations and experiences they encounter on their research journey. Their personal artwork cannot be disentangled from the research projects in the same way as the artwork produced by participants is seen as an integral part of the research methods.