Promoting Wellness through Expressive Arts
The value of expressive arts in helping people recover from illness, injuries and trauma as well as improving holistic wellbeing has been increasingly recognised around the world.
Professor Rainbow Ho and her team in the Department of Social work and Social Administration and the Centre on Behavioral Health have pioneered the application of evidence-based expressive arts-based Intervention (EXABI) in wellness promotion in their project ‘Improving Holistic Wellness Across the Lifespan in the Community through Expressive Arts: From Research to Practice’.
Holistic wellness takes wellbeing to another level by focusing on four main aspects: physiological stress, psychological conditions, social and behavioural issues, and spiritual wellness. As one of the holistic wellness modalities, the value of expressive arts in helping people recover from illness, injuries and trauma as well as improving wellbeing has been increasingly recognised around the world. In Hong Kong, the use of expressive arts has resulted in major improvements to the wellbeing of Hong Kong people of all ages, particularly children with special education needs (SEN) and adults with mental health or chronic medical conditions. After EXABI exposure, children with SEN have shown fewer emotional difficulties, hyperactivity and peer problems. Adults suffering from major depressive disorder experienced reduced symptoms and better mental health after taking part in clay art activities. Older adults with mild dementia responded positively after taking part in dance movement activities. Improvements were also seen in cases of chronic conditions including dementia, HIV and intellectual disability.
Over the last five years, the team has worked on many research projects in collaboration with 704 public sector organisations, reaching almost 70,000 beneficiaries. Direct impacts include provision of professional training and supervision to 40 schools for children with SEN, and provision of arts-based therapy in 250 elder care centres, reaching 1,806 elderly people suffering from depression, and providing EXABI to 162 young stroke survivors. In the community, the founding of the Master of Expressive Arts Therapy programme by Professor Ho – the first of its kind in the region – has seen 112 graduates who inspire the community.
The project has helped expressive arts gain acceptance as a viable, reliable and evidence-based option for those at risk of mental health issues as well as healthcare professionals and the general public.
The team has worked closely with the Social Welfare Department to explore the value of arts in community settings in areas from rehabilitation to child and family services. They also worked with the Narcotics Division of the Security Bureau, the Home Affairs Bureau and a wide range of non-government organisations including the Boys’ & Girls’ Clubs Associations of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation, YWCA Wan Wah Care and Attention Home for the Elderly, Hong Kong Chinese Christian Churches Union Kwong Yum Care Home, Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, City Contemporary Dance Company, Harmony House, Hong Kong Christian Service, Music Children Foundation, The Sovereign Art Foundation and others.
The team’s interaction with such a diverse range of NGOs and community partners has spurred the development of a professional community helping professionals combine their clinical work with the arts.
Professor Rainbow Tin Hung Ho and her team members, Dr Kar Pui Caitlin Chan, Dr Ted Chun Tat Fong and Dr Ho Yin Adrian Wan of the Centre on Behavioral Health, Dr Yu Te Huang and Dr Pui Yan Wong of the Department of Social Work and Social Administration, received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award 2021 of the Faculty of Social Sciences for the project ‘Improving Holistic Wellness Across the Lifespan in the Community through Expressive Arts: from Research to Practice’.