Prof Vicky Karkou presenting her research

Academics at Edge Hill University have helped uncover the key ingredients that make a therapy successful in treating clinical depression.

After researching 76 published articles on the treatment of depression they have identified seven key themes behind effective treatment.

Having tested these ingredients in arts-led workshops with patients and professionals from Manchester’s mental health services they have created a new treatment, and plan to run a three-month therapy intervention to evaluate the treatment with service users of Liverpool’s mental health services. Professor of Arts and Wellbeing, Vicky Karkou, said:

“Arts for the Blues is a collaborative research project between Edge Hill University, the University of Salford, University of Cambridge and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and includes academics and practitioners from a range of disciplines including performance arts, literature, dance movement and art psychotherapy, health and social care as well as NHS clinical and counselling psychologists and psychotherapists.

“The project is a response to the need to identify useful and diverse therapy options for people with depression. Recent statistics from the NHS shows that 43 per cent of people drop out of their therapy, indicating that they don’t find the current interventions helpful.

“To understand how therapeutic services can be improved we looked at 76 articles referring to helpful factors in treating depression. The research spanned a range of NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) therapeutic interventions including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), counselling and arts psychotherapies.

She added:

“We found seven helpful factors that make up the ingredients of a successful therapy;

  • Encouraging active engagement
  • Learning skills
  • Developing relationships
  • Expressing emotions
  • Processing at a deeper level (working with past and present issues and concerns)
  • Gaining understanding
  • Experimenting with different ways of being
  • Integrating useful material (into everyday life)Using these ingredients, we created a new evidence-based creative psychological treatment which we piloted at two workshops at Edge Hill. Since then, and thanks to funding from Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, we plan to run a 12-week trial with mental health providers across the NHS and the charity/community sector for people suffering from depression and other mental health issues.”

To find out more about Arts for the Blues, watch short videos explaining the key ingredients and find links to published journal articles please visit