Blog Posts for Arts Marketing

The Illusion of “Evidence-Based” Practices

Posted by Michelle Dean, Sep 20, 2010 13 comments

Michelle Dean

As cited in the Green Pages: Does the intense federal focus on “evidence-based” practices results in a premature dismissal or disregard for therapeutic practices that are beneficial to many populations?

Let’s face it, value placed on evidence-based practices is not just because of federal funding but a cultural bias that values scientific method, in an attempt “to prove” or “validate” what is real. The economic origins of this long-standing bias are beyond the scope of this blog but none-the-less the question remains: How does art therapy fit in this model?  Well, not so well due to its very symbolic nature.  And why should it?

Although there have been great efforts to promote and conduct evidence based treatment (EBT) and research in art therapy, it may be said that art therapy (or any therapeutic relationship for that matter) is a symbolic process, which is embedded in a relation-based therapeutic practice. So when symbols or people in a relationship are taken out of context they lose their meaning. For example, it would be like taking two people in love and removing one person in the couple and plopping them down with someone else and expecting the same amorous feelings – this is clearly absurd.  Sociologist, Durkheim discusses the advantages of being in a relationship as a reduced risk factor to suicide. However, when an art therapist is actually working with a patient, the statistical risk factor is far less important than the qualities and meaning of the relationship. And it is those relationship qualities that are so elusive to measure.  Elkins debunks the validity of empirically supported treatments, by uncovering the insidious economic gains for the insurance and pharmaceutical companies. And Seife points out, in his soon to be released text, Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception, “Our society is now awash in proofiness. Using a few powerful techniques, thousands of people are crafting mathematical falsehoods to get you to swallow untruths”. Who is to say that what is being conveyed by the statistics of EBT are even measuring what they are claiming?

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