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Developing an Art Therapy
Research Strategic Plan

The purpose of this project was to design and develop a strategic research plan for the sustainability and advancement of the art therapy field. A strategic plan is a systematic multi-phasic proposal that includes mission, vision, goals, facilitators, interventions, and desired outcomes designed to systematically and critically investigate, sustain, and grow the profession . The rationale for this project is based upon three premises: 1) the significant changes in the political, socio-economic, and scientific climate since the profession’s inception; 2) the emphatic research planning trends in both sister and funding organizations; and, 3) the absence of a multi-phasic systematic strategic research plan in the field of art therapy.   


The increasing call for research and the correlate evidence-bases requires that healthcare and human services professions such as art therapy commit to an infrastructure supporting ongoing critical and systematic examinations of its theories and practices. In art therapy such a critical and systematic investigation might include studying: our worldview, current bodies of knowledge, theories and practices; epistemologically relevant research frameworks, methodologies, and  evidence (Satterfield et al., 2009); key stakeholders, investigators, organizational, and clinician partners; resources and research capacity; promotion and expansion of the organizational research culture and educational mission; and, a clear operational strategic research agenda (American Music Therapy Association [AMTA], 2015; National Endowment for the Arts [NEA], 2018; National Institute of Nursing Research [NINR], 2011; World Health Organization[WHO], 2012).  


To generate the data addressing these aims we developed  a sequential multi-phase project consisting of three phases.  The three phases of our project which included: 1) Phase One: Scoping Review; 2) Phase Two: Survey and Focus Group; and,  3) Phase Three: Working Symposium. The strength of sequential multi-phase projects lies in the  emergence of data in each phase. As the  data emerges from each phase they inform and shape the conceptualization, construction, and implementation of the subsequent phase while assessing and compensating for limitations.  In addition to this sequential multi-phase design, our project adopted a community-based participatory inquiry philosophy and approach. The community-based participatory inquiry philosophy encourages the egalitarian inclusion of all members of the community who wish to contribute.  Through the three phases of our project we encountered and engaged with multiple  different groups within our art therapy global community.  The interaction of these different groups strengthened the scope and perspectives of the project and the results.  It is our hope that this living strategic plan for art therapy research will invite additional engagement, reflection, and creative implementation from the art therapy community.

Central to the plan is the Building of Community . This means that we need all art therapists committed to research to join us as we move into the implementation phase of the plan.  There is a contact form 

that you can use is you are interested in joining us.  

In the following pages we provide the outline for the art therapy research strategic plan. It includes six

categories. These categories are used to develop  goals and action items.  For the implementation phase we would like to form work groups to address the goals and action items.

  1. Building Community

  2. Art Therapy Worldview

  3. Art Therapy Evidence

  4. Research Methods

  5. Clinical Practice and Theory

  6. Education, Advocacy and Policy

For more in depth information about each of these categories and how they interconnect  please visit our Blog Page

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