Enhancing mental health care through ‘therapeutic art' in Zambia

  • L.A. Hill
  • K Lyambai
  • W.A. Sheikh
Keywords: Therapeutic Art, Mental health care, Mental health professionals, Zambia


Background: Mental health care needs a range of inputs to maximise opportunities for effective outcomes. In Zambia, like many developing countries, mental health care is largely limited to pharmacological approaches. In efforts to address this gap a Scottish NGO 'Zambia Therapeutic Art' (ZTA) developed and implemented 'The Zambia Therapeutic Art Course' for Mental Health Professionals (The ZTA Course, MHPs).

Objective: To assess the effectiveness and sustainability of The ZTA Course.

Methods: A mixed methods approach was used: Evaluation questionnaires were administered to 26 MHPs on completion of the course in Lusaka and Livingstone; of these, 12 were interviewed 6 months post-course. Data was analysed thematically.

Results: All 26 MHP trainees, who completed questionnaires, reported an increase in useful skills wi th 63% reporting improvements in communication and relationship building with patients during the experiential training. All 12 MHPs trainees interviewed 6 months post-course had used Therapeutic Art (TA) skills in their work; 75 % clearly demonstrated their capacity to understand and implement the practice and felt the training was sufficient to do this. The applicability of the course to other health settings and special education was widely noted. Perceived challenges going forward included lack of resources and support systems.

Conclusion: The ZTA Course has much potential to improve mental health care in Zambia by addressing the current gap in provision of psychosocial approaches. Increasing patients' ability to communicate with MHPs through using art enabled better therapeutic relationships; improving MHPs understanding of their patients and their difficulties and supporting patients' empowerment and recovery.

Keywords: Therapeutic Art, Mental health care, Mental health professionals, Zambia


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0047-651X
print ISSN: 0047-651X