Effects of clay art therapy on adults outpatients with major depressive disorder: A randomized controlled trial

Joshua K M NAN*, Rainbow T.H. Ho

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Background Depression has become a critical global health problem, affecting millions of people. Cost-effective nonpharmacological treatment in community settings has been proposed to complement medical treatment. Short-term clay art therapy (CAT) is an alternative treatment that promotes the enhancement of various aspects of mental health for depressed individuals. Methods One-hundred and six adults with depression were randomized into a CAT group or visual art (VA) control group for six 2.5-h weekly sessions. Intervention effects were measured using the Beck Depression Inventory, 12-Item General Health Questionnaire (Chinese version), Body–Mind–Spirit Well-Being Inventory, and 20-Item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (Chinese version) at baseline, immediately postintervention (T1), and 3-weeks postintervention (T2). Result Multivariate analysis of covariance results indicated a more significant time × group effect for CAT than for VA on depressive signs, general health, and body–mind–spirit well-being (all p<0.05). Significant within-groups changes were observed in these three aspects after treatment and at T2 (all p<0.001) and in alexithymia at T2 (p<0.01) in the CAT group, but the change was nonsignificant in the VA group at T1 and T2. Limitations The homogeneity of the participants affected the generalizability of the study findings. The short-term postintervention follow-up (3 weeks) presented difficulties in demonstrating the long-term effects of CAT. Conclusions CAT can aid emotion regulation and benefit various aspects of mental health in adults. The short duration of the intervention suggests additional application value in treating depression. Further investigation is warranted regarding the potential effect of CAT on alleviating physical symptoms and improving social function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-245
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

User-Defined Keywords

  • Clay art therapy
  • Depression
  • Emotion regulation
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Short-term creative arts psychotherapy


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