Exploring the potential of creative and arts-based methods for applied psychology researc

Project: UK charity

Project Details


Psychological and other health and mental health professionals are increasingly using creative and arts-based interventions in a wide range of settings and with diverse client groups (e.g. in dementia care and in work with traumatised children). There is also a developing body of research that demonstrates the value of creative activities for psychological and physical well-being (e.g. co-applicant Holt’s research on the mood elevating and stress reducing benefits of mindful colouring for students recently presented at the BPS Annual Conference). The body of research examining the value of such arts-based interventions is often labelled 'arts-based research'. Outside of psychology, in the social sciences, there is also a growing body of work centred on the use of creative, performance and arts-based methods in research – both for generating data and disseminating research findings; the latter often with an emphasis on public engagement in science, producing actionable outcomes and achieving impact. There is a tradition of visual methods in psychology, however, psychologists and particularly applied psychologists are yet to fully engage with the potential, and full range and diversity, of creative methods in their research practice. This seminar series will invite applied psychologists at the cutting-edge of the use of creative and arts-based methods and approaches, as well as experts in allied fields (such as organisational studies) whose work has strong relevance to applied psychological research, to share their experiences of using such approaches and highlight their benefits (as well as potential challenges) for applied psychological research. One presentation will also explicitly address the intersections of arts-based research and creative methods.

In creative research, methods, modes of enquiry, and multi-modal dissemination strategies, include: narrative, fiction, story-telling, poetry, music, dance and movement, film, photo-methods, multi-modal diaries, and drawing. Creative research methods allow for the alignment of psychological research with arts-based practice, are thought to be particularly fruitful for engaging the public in research and achieving impact in a diverse range of settings. In many instances, they enable more meaningful access to the object of inquiry (e.g. capturing the psychological experience of pain through drawing rather than simply verbal description or questionnaire responses) and can shift researcher-researched dynamics and allow participants a more generative role in the research process. They can be more engaging for participants (than ticking/clicking boxes in a survey or answering interview questions), and therefore produce rich and complex accounts of people's lives. They are thought to be particularly useful for accessing hard-to-reach and difficult-to-engage groups and for researching the vulnerable groups that are often the focus of psychological research (e.g. children, the elderly), and encourage people to participate in research who otherwise wouldn't if data collection was focused on the written word.

The proposed series of three seminars will focus on the use of creative methods in applied psychological research, exploring the following:
-Generating: the use of creative and arts-based methods to generate data in applied research and navigating potential pitfalls and challenges
-Analysing: how to analyse data generated by creative and arts-based methods
-Disseminating: creative methods and strategies for dissemination, and achieving public engagement, actionable outcomes and impact

As well as reflecting the format of a traditional research seminar, the seminar series will also aim to exemplify creative research practice through offering spaces and opportunities for creativity and multi-modal expression. In addition to the traditional research presentations detailed below, each seminar will include a ‘making and creating’ workshop and other ‘bite-sized’ opportunities for creative engagement will be on offer to participants throughout the seminar series (e.g. mindful colouring sessions in the lunch breaks, creating scrolls of kindness for a ‘guerrilla kindness’ action – handmaking objects and leaving them for people to find, poetry and photography challenges). There will also be an ‘artist in residence’ for the seminar series, who will visually capture and communicate the key messages and ideas of the presentations/seminars, and will demonstrate to attendees the potential creative methods hold for the dissemination of research findings. Their work will be shared via social media and the seminar series repository.

Short title£3,000
Effective start/end date31/05/198/07/19


  • Psychology
  • Creative
  • Research