What is Evaluation?

At its most fundamental level evaluation is information collected to base a decision on (Hervey, 2000, p.67). This information can be of statistical and/or intuitive in nature. It is a dual process of monitoring patient progress and making judgments about the course of treatment. This process can be formative (on going) and/or summative (at the end).

Evaluation is used to guide and direct treatment; to ascertain the problems and needs of the client, program, and institution. Evaluations can be used to predict future behavior, to monitor change and to know when to stop treatment (Cruz, Berrol, 2004, p. 26).  Evaluations are often used to establish a baseline of the client, the program and or a particular behavior/movement pattern.18

Fundamentals of Evaluations

A projective approach in evaluation seeks what is unique in how people structure their perceptions. It involves indirect reporting generally through observation. The client responds to external stimulus and by doing so they reveal internal structures that shape their responses. The client may not be aware of all that is being revealed in the process and what is being revealed is often symbolic.

Behavioral approaches in evaluations are based on the theory that aberrant or maladaptive behavior is not a symptom of a problem-it is the problem. Practioners believe that behavior is learned and situational specific and the key is to identify stimulus associated with behavior. They look for patterns, frequency and duration and the circumstances with which a behavior occurs. They also may look for what happens before and after a behavior.

Clinical based methods of evaluation are based on the intuitive sense of the practioner. They may take a commonsense understanding of a behavior and or may leap across intermediates steps of analysis based on training and experience.

Problems of Evaluation

Many problems may occur in the process of evaluation. Where and how you chose the evaluation itself can influence the perception of the question and forms the boundaries of the answer. The session itself may present a problem for it maybe so out of the ordinary for the client that the behavior expressed maybe of little value. The evaluators observation may be skewed by their past experiences and or theoretical orientation. The observer may make assumptions about causes and assign them to effects. Disorders and problems often follow a cyclical pattern of remission and may not present itself at the time(s). Finally the biggest problem with evaluation is the task of translating events in the session into a standardized form/language.

3-Myths-About-Creativity-That-Just-Won’t-QuitThere seems to be a negative biased towards scientific research/evaluation amongst Dance Movement Therapists and Expressive Art Therapists (Berrol, 2000, p. 30.). It’s a sort of art versus science with many believing that scientific research is incompatible with Expressive Art Therapy. In addition there is a continuing resistance in the Expressive Arts Therapies to psychiatric labels used in evaluations. Many therapists believe them to be of limited utility in guiding treatment as they were designed for talk therapy.

To further muddy the waters there is a controversy within psychotherapy and Expressive Art Therapies about what is therapy. There is still a strong contingent that insists that Expressive Art Therapy is an adjunct to the real therapy of talking and that intuition and feelings based approaches have little evidence to support their assumptions. They consider the expressive arts therapies to be activity services rather than expressive psychotherapies.

Traditional diagnosis says a person has a disorder or does not have it. However the difference between normal and abnormal behavior is one of degree. Many Expressive Art Therapists use the term diagnosis to refer to identification of their patient’s needs, or the deficiencies for which they may develop training or educational plans. The use of the term is dependent on the intentionality of therapy. Is one going to deal with the symptom of the presenting problem or with the underlying basis? This questioning begins the process of evaluation for the therapists and leads to the evaluation for the client.


Fundamentals of research are important in developing a basis for a process of evaluation. As the process of evaluation advances it is important to employ the right methods that fit the client, the situation and the therapists. Finding a way to bridge the two conflicting rivers of science and art is an ongoing task in the field of inquiry in Expressive Art Therapies. In my readings so far I have noticed many new books and articles that are attempting to embrace a more scientific model in an artistic manner. This is an exciting an on going pursuit and I look forward to its exploration in the next packet.

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.
An overview of research methods and their application in evaluations and inquiry.

Cruz, R,F. & Berrol, C.F. (2004). Dance/Movement Therapists in Action: A Working Guide to Research Options. Springfield, Ill.: C.C. Thomas.
An in depth guide to basis research methods, traditional methods and new cutting edge methods.

Feder, B.& Feder,E. (1988). The Art and Science of Evaluation in the Arts Therapies. Springfield, Ill: Charles C Thomas.
Fundamentals of research in therapies, with a traditional overview of modalities evaluation methods.

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

A compilation of articles from the American Dance Movement Therapy Journal about new methods of evaluations.


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