Page last updated at 23:02 GMT, Sunday, 14 September 2008 00:02 UK

NHS art therapy for schizophrenia

Emma Wilkinson
Health reporter, BBC News

Woman with schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia can become very withdrawn and isolated

Government advisers are expected to recommend art therapy on the NHS for people with schizophrenia.

The National Institute of Clinical and Health Excellence (NICE) will promote use of programmes offering music, art and dance therapy for the first time.

Activities include playing musical instruments and creating collages.

An expert panel found the therapy works particularly well in patients with "negative" symptoms such as withdrawal and poor motivation.

Schemes use trained therapists, with degrees in art, music or dance, and encourage people with schizophrenia to be creative as well as participating in group activities.

With psychoses, part of the problem is hallucinations and delusions and it becomes really hard to talk to people about them and people become isolated because no one is listening to them
Dr Mike Crawford, Imperial College London

Dr Tim Kendall, co-director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, who helped put together the draft guidance, said there are some arts therapists in place already but services are patchy.

"We have pulled together data from six different trials on several hundred people.

"Dance, art and music therapy all seem to have a positive benefit," he said.

"In Sheffield where I work it's available quite widely but some areas don't have the services."

Communication

NICE first issued guidance on schizophrenia in 2002 but has revisited the topic in light of new evidence.

A consultation on the new recommendations will be open until November, with final guidance due next year.

Dr Mike Crawford, an expert in mental health services at Imperial College London who has carried out studies on arts therapy, said the therapies help people communicate.

"With psychoses, part of the problem is hallucinations and delusions and it becomes really hard to talk to people about them - and people become isolated because no one is listening to them."

He added: "Although there is evidence these therapies work we don't really know how.

"It's possible they work because they just bring people together and break the cycle of isolation.

"Other people have argued it's helpful because you are constructing something."

Alison Cobb from the mental health charity Mind said: "While medication for schizophrenia can help tackle symptoms such as psychosis, medication alone fails to address some of the other problems people may experience, such as problems communicating and socialising with others.

"Art therapy is a non-threatening and accessible therapy that can help people express their feelings without the need to talk them over."




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