Why Did it All End? – A History of Art in Therapy from Maureen


Being a media correspondent for the Renfrewshire mental health arts festival this year I am intrigued by the sudden upsurge in arts and crafts within mental health recovery.

The new buzz being that arts, crafts and the social aspect of such ventures has a positive effect on mental health.

Well…and here comes the surprise…such ventures have been part of treatment for mental illness for decades.

When I started my nurse training in 1982 Leverndale hospital there were already a very well established occupational, recreational and industrial therapy departments.

The attendees at that time were mainly in-patients who viewed the wards as their homes and had been hospitalised nearly all of their adult life. They viewed attending the industrial therapy as their “job”, their place of “work” and would be up out of bed bright and early to go to “work” in the department being paid a small sum of money for their attendance.

The occupational and recreational therapy departments were for physical, social and crafting activities. Each department was staffed with qualified nurses or occupational therapists. The therapies offered activities such as knitting, crochet, macramé, basket weaving, pottery, mosaic work, art, woodwork, concrete slab making, gardening, football, bowling, snooker, swimming, hill walking, horse riding, unskilled industrial bench work, to name but a few.

Why did it all end??

Well some activities remain but changes government policy, ward closures and funding issues are some of the reasons.

The patients were proud of their achievements and felt part of something.

Sound familiar?

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