Enhancing Mental Health Care through ‘Therapeutic Art' in Zambia


  • Waqas Ahmed Sheikh Livingstone Central Hospital, Department of Psychiatry
  • L A Hill Zambia Therapeutic Art
  • K Lyambai University of Zambia, School of Nursing Sciences




Background: Mental health care needs a range of inputs to maximise opportunities for effective outcomes. In Zambia, like many developing countries, mental health care is largely limited to pharmacological approaches. In efforts to address
this gap a Scottish NGO 'Zambia Therapeutic Art' (ZTA) developed and implemented 'The Zambia Therapeutic Art Course' for Mental Health Professionals (The ZTA Course, MHPs).

Objective: To assess the effectiveness and sustainability of The ZTA Course.

Methods: A mixed methods approach was used: Evaluation questionnaires were administered to 26 MHPs on completion  of the course in Lusaka and Livingstone; of these, 12 were interviewed 6 months post-course. Data was analysed thematically.

Results: All 26 MHP trainees, who completed questionnaires, reported an increase in useful skills with 63% reporting imptovements in communication and relationship building with patients during the experiential training. All 12
MHPs trainees interviewed 6 months post-course had used Therapeutic Art (TA) skills in their work; 75 % clearly demonstrated their capacity to understand and implement the practice and felt the training was sufficient to do this. The applicability of the course to other health settings and special education was widely noted. Perceived challenges
going forward included lack of resources and support systems.

Conclusion: The ZTA Course has much potential to improve mental health care in Zambia by addressing the current gap in provision of psychosocial approaches. Increasing patients' ability to communicate with MHPs through using art
enabled better therapeutic relationships; improving MHPs understanding of their patients and their difficulties and supporting patients' empowerment and recovery.


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Original Article

How to Cite

Enhancing Mental Health Care through ‘Therapeutic Art’ in Zambia. (2020). Medical Journal of Zambia, 46(4), 321-328. https://doi.org/10.55320/mjz.46.4.241