Social value of culturally informed art therapy for military and emergency services

Henry Bowen, Claire Hutchinson, Jocelyn Kernot, Amy Baker, Miriam Posselt, Kobie Boshoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Defence and Emergency Services personnel are exposed to a high number of traumatic events during their employment, which may result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Art therapy serves as a possible as a trauma-focused treatment for PTSD. However, as health funding becomes more difficult to secure, there is a need to be able justify value to funding bodies. A Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis provides the opportunity to value typically intangible social value outcomes through a ratio of X:1. 

Aim: The current study outlines the process and results of a SROI of a culturally informed art therapy programme for defence and emergency services personnel with PTSD symptoms in Australia. 

Methods: Six steps for conducting an SROI were followed: (1) establishing the scope and identifying the participants; (2) mapping the outcomes; (3) evidencing and valuing those outcomes; (4) establishing impact; (5) calculating the SROI; and (6) reporting the ratio. 

Results: Eight outcomes were identified, and proxy figures calculated for these outcomes. After weighting and discounting, a ratio of 3.05:1 was identified, indicating $3.05 of social value was generated for every $1 invested in the programme. 

Conclusion: Culturally informed art therapy offers a social return for military and emergency services personnel as a PTSD intervention. 

Implications for practice/policy/research: The findings of this study can be used by art therapy practitioners and programme leaders to justify art therapy practice for veterans with PTSD in policy and funding applications. They may also guide conducting SROI analyses contextualised to local cultural settings. 

Plain-language summary 

Defence and Emergency Services personnel may be exposed to a high number of traumatic events during their employment, which can result in severe emotional distress. This distress can develop into post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms, or even a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Art therapy has been growing in popularity as a possible trauma-focused treatment for PTSD, especially for Defence and Emergency Services personnel. However, as health funding becomes more and more difficult to secure, there is a need to justify the impact of well-being programmes to funding bodies. Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis provides the opportunity to measure and provide a monetary ratio value to typically intangible social value outcomes structurally and unambiguously. This is represented by detailing how many dollars of social value is returned for every dollar invested into the programme as a ratio of X:1. This study conducted an SROI analysis for an art therapy programme with current and former military and emergency services with PTSD in Australia. The following methods were undertaken: (1) establishing the scope and identifying the participants; (2) mapping the outcomes; (3) evidencing and valuing those outcomes; (4) establishing impact; (5) calculating the SROI; and (6) reporting the ratio of amount of social value. Conservative estimates were used. Eight outcomes were identified, and proxy figures calculated for these outcomes. After weighting and discounting, $3.05 of social value was generated for every $1 invested. This study suggests that a culturally informed art therapy as an intervention for PTSD symptoms with military and emergency services offers a social return for the money invested and may be worth funding. The results of this study can be utilised by art therapy practitioners and programme leaders to justify art therapy practice for veterans with PTSD in policy and funding applications, and guide conducting their own SROI analyses contextualised to their cultural settings.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Art Therapy: Inscape
Early online date9 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • emergency services
  • health investment
  • military
  • PTSD
  • Social return
  • trauma
  • veterans

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