A study to investigate if interpersonal art psychotherapy is helpful and value for money for people with learning disabilities who are in secure care.
In the past people who have a learning disability were often excluded from taking part in research. This means that knowing what works well for them is not always clear. Lots of psychotherapies available to help people with mental health difficulties are based on talking, which might not always be the best approach for people with learning disabilities. Doing artwork or creative things within art psychotherapy can be a helpful way for people to communicate about themselves. Interpersonal art psychotherapy has been designed to help people with learning disabilities in secure care. The art psychotherapist encourages people to use creative ways to express the things they would like to feel better about.
We want to find out if interpersonal art psychotherapy is helpful and value for money for people with learning disabilities who are in secure care. We will be testing if interpersonal art psychotherapy works better than the standard care that is being provided. To do this we will need to recruit 200 people and put them into groups by chance, with half having interpersonal art psychotherapy and half on a waiting list for it. This is called a randomised controlled trial (RCT). Everyone in the study will get a chance to have interpersonal art psychotherapy.
The research team is made up of art psychotherapists and researchers. People who have a learning disability have been advising us on how we should do this research. People helped us to design the study, suggesting using a waiting list. They thought it was important for everyone in the study to have a chance to do art psychotherapy. The therapy manual was developed by an art psychotherapist and people who have a learning disability looked at it and told us what they thought worked well and what could be improved. People with a learning disability will be advising us during the study. A theatre company, run by and for people who have a learning disability, will help share the results of our research through performances.
We will find out if interpersonal art psychotherapy can help people who are in secure care to improve their mood, become less distressed, and not hurt themselves or others. We think that this research will give people with a learning disability more choices about accessing psychotherapy in secure care.
The study has three main aims:
- The study aims to see if art therapy helps reduces aggression in adults with learning disability in secure care.
- To explore what patient characteristics and therapeutic mechanisms have an effect on treatment
- To determine if art psychotherapy is more cost-effective compared to usual care
Design and methods
This is a two-arm randomised control trial. The trial will take place in at least 8 NHS trusts in the UK and will look to recruit 200 participants.
Results due to be published in May 2026.
NIHR HEE/NIHR ICA Programme Senior Clinical Lectureship
|Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
|1 Jun 2022
|31 Aug 2025