Objectives: Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is strongly linked with an increase in stress, depression, and anxiety. Mental health care is widely acknowledged to be an essential component of T1D clinical care. However, it has proven challenging to identify a successful model of mental health care for T1D. We investigated whether art therapy could be used in the psychological care of patients with T1D. Art therapy allows for the expression and exploration of complex emotions related to illness in an age-appropriate manner, and has been shown to be an effective mental health therapy in other chronic illnesses, but has not been studied in T1D.

Methods: We evaluated the effectiveness of an art therapy intervention for stress management in T1D patients. We administered a 17-question questionnaire to 22 sequential patients referred to the on-site art therapist. Mean age of the subjects was 13.1 +/- 7.5 years (range: 8-40 years) and mean duration of diabetes was 5.3 +/- 5 years. The subjects saw the art therapist a mean of 7 +/- 6.4 visits prior to completing the questionnaire.

Results: All participants found the sessions stress reducing and planned to continue with ongoing therapy and to incorporate strategies learned into diabetes self-care. The most common responses associated with art therapy were “calm,” “safe,” “feeling understood,” “less overwhelmed.” The average A1c prior to receiving art therapy was 8.7+/-1.8%, and fell to 7.7% +/- 1.5% after a mean of 7 art therapy sessions.

Conclusions: Art therapy was a well-received effective mental health treatment in reducing stress in T1D. In this sample, glucose control improved as well. Art therapy is a novel modality in the psychological care of patients living with T1D that can alleviate some of the psychological burden of the disease, a treatment that will be studied in a larger trial.


C. Lampron: None. R. Goland: None. N. Leibel: None.

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