Implementing Standard Documentation in Group Art Therapy


To recognize Creative Arts Therapy Week, we interviewed art therapist, Rob Belgrod LCAT, ATR-BC about new and exciting research that TATP is conducting with Dr. Ian Kwok of Mount Sinai Hospital System. Find out more below!

How did the idea for this research come about?

Dr. Ian Kwok reached out to The Art Therapy Project to see how he could get involved. He is a big supporter of art therapy and has seen first-hand its positive impact in hospitals. After multiple conversations about art therapy in the workplace, we both realized there is an ongoing challenge in communication between art therapists and other mental health professionals as well as medical doctors; particularly in understanding effective intervention strategies for clients.

What is the research focused on?

We created a new detailed standardized group note with a section to quantify assessments and interventions utilized in session.

Can you describe how the note is used?

After a group session, art therapists complete a clinical group note which is essentially a summary of the occurrences in the group. It is a clinical tool that documents the clients’ needs, goals and responses to various interventions. For example, say a client is actively in recovery for substance abuse and talks about a specific trigger. Perhaps later in the group, another client talks about a very similar trigger. The art therapist would make note of that commonality and facilitate a supportive connection between the clients, either through discussion or an art process. In the new group note, the art therapist would identify verbal processing as the assessment and the intervention would be peer-to-peer support.

Why will this tool be helpful for clinicians?

This standardized group note will help clinicians go deeper into examining what interventions are being used and why. It will help us understand why certain interventions are more effective than others, which will hopefully lead to better communication and case-conferencing among mental health clinicians and other medical providers. It is creating a standardized format not just for us, as The Art Therapy Project, but for art therapists across the state, across the country, and around the world. We are trying to create a more common understanding and way to describe art therapy that is not confusing to people who are unfamiliar with the practice.

What is the status of the research today?

We are at the early stages of this research project, currently implementing the note in one of our 35 weekly groups. We began using the standardized note in August 2018 for the art therapy group we run an outpatient chemical dependency program at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, and we plan to expand the use of the note to our other groups this year. We are also introducing this idea into the field of art therapy and emphasizing the need for more standardization of our practices. We discussed the research at recent art therapy conferences such as the 13th IEATA Conference in Berkeley, California this past March and received wonderful support for implementing this note format from other professionals.

When can we learn more about this research?

Being as the research is still in its infancy, we are excited to collect more data from the work we are doing and further implementing it with all of our art therapy groups. Additionally, within the next few months, we will begin writing a paper to work towards publishing on the overall process of the standardized group note and its outcomes. With this, we will begin to develop an art therapy lexicon to better communicate what it is we do.

Rob and Dr. Ian Kwok will present this project again at The American Art Therapy Association’s 50th Annual Conference on October 30 - November 3, 2019 in Kansas City, MO. For more information on the conference, click here.

All PostsMartha Dorn