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The Use of Art Therapy in Alleviating Mental Health Symptoms in Refugees: A Literature Review

Roza Zadeh#, Jigar Jogia*

Department of Psychology, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University, Dubai, 19282, United Arab Emirates

* Corresponding Author: Jigar Jogia. Email: email
# Independent scholar

International Journal of Mental Health Promotion 2023, 25(3), 309-326.


There are over thirty million refugees globally with severe experiences of trauma. Art therapy intervention allows for nonverbal expression and could alleviate mental health symptomatology among refugees. The present review’s aim was to integrate and summarize the previous research which examined the effects of visual arts on alleviating psychological conditions of refugees. However, due to the paucity of studies which solely used visual arts, we included studies that used visual arts alongside other modalities as part of an expressive arts therapy intervention. The present review synthesizes studies that examined the effect of art therapy on mental health issues of refugees from January 2000 to March 2021. Seven studies (child and adolescent sample, N = 5 and adult sample, N = 2) with a total of 298 refugee participants (n = 298) met our inclusion criteria. The participants were from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Southeast Asia, and Europe. We found three commonly reported mental health disorders, namely Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and Major Depression Disorder. The research highlights how art therapy interventions could be a great starting point to alleviate symptomatology among refugees. Four additional benefits of art therapy which were commonly reported across the seven studies emerged from this review: working with traumatic experience/loss, rebuilding social connection and trust, nonverbal communication and self-expression of loss and trauma, and retelling stories. Art therapy interventions could be used as a starting point in the healing process of traumatized refugees to encourage verbal articulation of their feelings and reduce mental health symptoms. Despite these promising findings, due to a dearth of robust methodologies, further research is required to assess the long-term effectiveness of art therapy.


Cite This Article

Zadeh, R., Jogia, J. (2023). The Use of Art Therapy in Alleviating Mental Health Symptoms in Refugees: A Literature Review. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 25(3), 309–326.

cc This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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