Basics of Evaluation in Creative Arts Therapy

Evaluations are used to examine the entire process of client/therapists interaction. The information for evaluation can be gathered via two primary methods; quantitative and qualitative. I believe the best method of evaluation is to use a variety of methods in a process that fills the needs of the evaluator.

Why Evaluations?

There are a number of reasons why we need evaluations in Expressive Arts Therapy and Dance Movement Therapy in particular. For the field to grow amongst therapists of a common modality there should be a common language of description. This fosters a dialogue with enables the sharing of experiences and insights. The use of evaluations provides a standard that is accepted in the larger therapy world of other modalities.

All HMO’s as well as Medicare demand that claims for services have a valid evaluation of the client/patient services provided (Feder, 1988, p.3.). Evaluations can provide that by placing actions of care providers and care receivers into categories that are standardized. Ev

Another ‘outside’ influence on the need for evaluation was the joint commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. In 1981 they recommended among other things, “…. expressive arts therapists to assess the patient’s needs, interests, life experiences, capacities, and deficiencies” (Feder, 1988. p. 3.). This formalized the need for evaluation/assessment within hospital settings.

The Individuals with Disabilities Act brought forth a need for expressive arts therapists within scholastic settings as a way to meet the needs of special populations (Feder, 1988, p.3.). This requirement also formalized a need for evaluation and assessment to further the helping response to students.

Generally within institutional and therapy settings there is a need to provide a justification for your work and evaluation is the primary way that happens. Whether the institution requires a evaluation or not, every therapist should have some form of determining if what they are doing is working or not. The process of determination is a process of evaluation.

Fundamentals of Data Collection

Research of any kind is a careful critical inquiry and examination for the purpose of discovery and interpretation of new knowledge. A key concern in any research inquiry is that goals and objectives of a study correspond with the selected methods.

Information for evaluation can be gathered in two primary methods; quantitative and qualitative. These methods can be done on their own, or in combination with each other.

Quantitative measurement is fundamentally objective; it uses deductive logic in an exploration of cause-effect relationships. It is a comparison against a standard measuring the frequency of an event. This method may seem at odds with the myriad layers in the artistic and expressionistic therapy process; however the attributes of change can be measured. These attributes might include for instance, affect, movement, cognition, social interaction. cr

The quantitative method explores measurable observable phenomena related to human experience, and seeks to explain and predict behavior (Berrol, 2000, p. 34.) However even the most objective process involves value judgments in how the data is gathered and the evaluation process is applied.

In thinking about my past experiences where I may have applied quantitative methods one experience comes to mind; abet possibly only as quasi-quantitative. I witnessed a known behavioral phenomenon and responded with a hypothesis about the phenomena. I than introduced a known variable to manipulate the phenomena to a predicted state. My hypothesis was proven correct and the ‘intervention’ worked as expected.

Qualitative methods tend to be more subjective and interpretive. It is intuitive, impressionistic, goal free, naturalistic, and involves clinical techniques.

The qualitative method looks inward at the process of experiencing and in that way attempts to understand and interpret the underlying process. The qualitative process is grounded in inductive reasoning in that the evaluator formulates a question in the process of observation.

In thinking about where I may have applied a qualitative method in the past I am forced to consider the same situation as I used in the quantitative example. This suggests to me that I am not quite getting it and/or I used a bit of both in a sort of quasi-titative/litative method.

In a residential workshop assisting Dr. Rutkowski I observed a client clench her hands, contract and stand in a posture that would be difficult to move from whenever she used the phrase,” moving forward”. My hypothesis was she did not truly believe and embrace what she was saying and had some physical tension around this phrase based on her body language.

I have observed countless times before the relationship between words and phrases and stances and postures (known behavioral phenomenon). Further I have witnesses how one could change one part, stances/postures for instance (known variable), which would change the manner of the spoken words/phrases and thus their meaning for the client (predicted state). Based on this rather lose data I suggested the client consciously take a stance/posture that was physically non contracting (opening) and begin a movement process that was opening and flowing. Her body stance/posture changed and the manner in which she said her words changed as she experienced the concept of ‘moving forward’.

Afterwards she shared that she began to truly believe physically and emotionally in a way that was unknown to her before that she could ‘move forward’. My assertion that she did not fully embrace what she was saying was confirmed by the client.

Problems in Data Collection

There are some considerations of problems in the process of collecting data that should be taken into account. The more obvious is the above problem of how does what you did fit into the method of examination/evaluation. One needs to know that a method used is measuring what it is supposed to measure and thus have a degree of reliability to it. There also needs to be a degree of certainty that the method employed will provide information that will make a difference; other wise why use it. On a very fundamental level one needs to keep in mind that the very act of observation and or measurement influences the data collected. There can be issues with the collector’s expectations and own ego needs and goals in the therapy process.

I believe that there needs to be a unique and tuned balance of objective and subject interaction, observation and evaluation techniques deployed for a complete and helpful therapy process.

Excerpt from a article I wrote in 2005. Richard Brunner MA/CAT CYT

Berrol, C.F. (2000). The Spectrum of Research Options in Dance/Movement Therapy. American Journal of Dance Therapy Vol. 22, 29-46.

Cruz, R,F. & Berrol, C.F. (2004). Dance/Movement Therapists in Action: A Working Guide to Research Options. Springfield, Ill.: C.C. Thomas.

Feder, B.& Feder,E. (1988). The Art and Science of Evaluation in the Arts Therapies. Springfield, Ill: Charles C Thomas.

Hervey, L.W. (2000). Artistic Inquiry in Dance/Movement Therapy: Creative Research Alternatives. Springfield, Ill: Charles C Thomas.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s