The project utilises a creative process to generate rich qualitative data alongside a conventional reductionist method (use of a validated psychometric instrument to measure depression). The changes that are seen in the former contradict more static findings in the latter. The project throws up many methodological questions, such as the extent to which change is dependent upon the individual characteristics of the artists. It presents a profound challenge to our understanding of the relationship between depressive symptoms and recovery. The role of antidepressant medication is also of interest; it would appear that these medications do not necessarily suppress individual creativity. The project raises many more questions than it answers, which is why it is so exciting to be involved.
The unique aspect to this methological approach of recording response to treatment is that a continuous daily narrative (through the use of the video camera) was obtained from before treatment begins right through to subjects potentially achieving remission. The subjects themselves were in control to record impressions and thoughts as they occur in different situations. This contrasts to the use of psychological paradigms that measure specific domains of functioning and have to be administered at predetermined time points and in specific settings. The video narrative may capture changes in the types of situations that subjects enter into, changes in the focus of their attention and changes in levels of social interaction over the course of treatment. Along with the interview transcripts this material is likely to provide an immensely rich data source that could be analysed and explored in numerous ways. This process is ongoing at the moment and the results of the study will hopefully be published during 2014.
This project offered the participants an opportunity to tell their visual stories through video and is about starting dialogues as people process their internal worlds very differently. In the touring exhibition the participants experimental films and video stills are presented alongside those of the artists and explore a preverbal language of ‘in-between-ness’. These artworks create a language of ‘painterly video’ that communicates difficult social issues with subtle, oblique visual stanzas.
Although the project was conceived as a method of exploring the experiential effects of antidepressant medication, preliminary findings raise the possibility that engagement in the creative process itself may aid recovery from depression. This may be through diverting attention from internal ruminations towards external sensations, enhancing self-worth through the creation of aesthetic work and promoting the reconstruction of a meaningful personal narrative. In measuring success the collaborators are searching for changes to the self from a biomedical perspective and in the creative outputs.
Both the material generated by the participants and the response of the professional artists to this material are part of a touring exhibition, artist’s/participant book set and website. The first one took place in January 2013, and two further exhibitions are scheduled in July and September 2013, (please see forthcoming expositions). Building upon this experience several of the prompts from the In-between-ness project have also been exhibited in Venice, Italy during the Biennial (2011).
The research project offers a multidisciplinary approach to creatively investigating the self, the unconscious, different realities and time alongside the observational methodologies operating in science, thereby creating a fusion between the two disciplines. It provides access to the thinking process, and possibly unconscious process underlying how people interpret their emotional environment, whilst also stimulating new trains of thoughts.
Elizabeth Aylett, Head of Arts Therapies and BCUHB Arts in Health manager says:
“This research is an integral part of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Arts in Health & Wellbeing Programme. The research activity supports health outcomes resulting from arts interventions and provides evidence toward further development and funding of this work to the benefit of patients and families”.
While this work may contribute towards how we manage this illness in the future, we could not guarantee that taking part in the study would have any direct benefits for the participants. However, patients who have been involved in arts in health projects in the past had found the experience rewarding. For some people engaging in a creative process like this can help them make sense of their condition.