The benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary collaborations in arts and health practice

Jensen, Anita (2017) The benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary collaborations in arts and health practice. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Arts and health are international fields of practice with stakeholders from various disciplines. It is known that the UK has an established practice of collaboration in the form of interdisciplinary partnerships in arts and health (Clift et al., 2009, White, 2009), whereas in Denmark initiatives exist ad-hoc and there is no such established field (Jensen and Wille, 2015).

This thesis is a qualitative study investigating the interdisciplinary relationships between stakeholders engaged in arts and health practice in the UK and in Denmark. The identified stakeholders in the study are: health professionals, museum educators and mental health service users.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 36 participants including health professionals, museum educators and service users. Data were collected in Denmark and in the UK. A thematic approach was used to analyse the data and theoretical lenses of sociological theories of professions and institutional logics were employed to explore the findings.

There were two stages to the data collection in Denmark; the first was a small-scale pilot study where the findings identified that arts engagement have health and wellbeing benefits for mental health service users. These benefits are perceived to include empowerment and meaning in life, which are two of the core principles of recovery; arts engagement can therefore be a useful tool in recovery and although this was a small-scale pilot study, the findings are not dissimilar to findings from other studies examining this issue. However, the pilot study also highlighted some further issues with the interaction between museum educators and service users that had unintended negative effects.

The larger scale study was then conducted in Denmark to explore the interaction between service users and museum educators. The findings illustrate, similarly to the pilot study, that arts engagement is perceived to be beneficial for service users. The findings also show that the experience of visiting a museum was not always positive and depended upon the interaction with the museum educators.

The service users identified points about the museum educators as a professional group which gave the idea that if museums in Denmark want to engage positively with people with mental health problems, then the training of staff and the improvement of institutional approaches to support working with vulnerable people are essential.

In order to further understand and explore the professionals in arts and health practice and what contributes to an effective partnership, the next part of the study took place in the more established arts and health field in the UK. In this way, this part of the study was conducted in the UK and was chosen in order to explore a setting with health professionals and museum educators working together in an interdisciplinary collaboration. This stage of the study reveals that interdisciplinary work in arts and health is complex, given the different disciplines and institutions involved. However, findings throughout the study (in Denmark and in the UK) illustrate that competing institutional logics play a vital and ambiguous part in the work of the professions involved in arts and health practice and that this presents a challenge for interdisciplinary working in the field.

The UK part of the study also illustrates that aspects of practice, such as risk management, are approached from different perspectives depending on the profession involved and are interpreted in various ways according to the disciplinary background. Working in unfamiliar settings creates professional vulnerability and ambiguity and the interdisciplinary setting illustrates that professionals have territories that they want to uphold. However, the study also shows that there is an agreement among the professionals that an interdisciplinary approach to the field is necessary.

The conclusion of the study has, from the perspectives of the participants, served to highlight some benefits and challenges in the interdisciplinary field of arts and health practice. The study suggests that an awareness of the existing complexities of logics, a pragmatic framework in which multiple and competing logics can co-exist and that recognising the differences between disciplines and institutions could benefit practice in the field.

In addition, offering various arts activities in diverse health settings and for different health issues, including health promotion, treatments and recovery, can strengthen a patient-centred approach of healthcare that both the UK and Denmark strive to achieve. Furthermore, the study makes recommendations for the field of practice.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Stickley, T.
Edgley, A.
Keywords: Interdisciplinary relationships, Health professionals, Museum educators, Mental health service users, Arts engagement
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Item ID: 42711
Depositing User: Jensen, Anita
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2017 14:21
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 11:03

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