In-between-ness using art to capture changes to the self during antidepressant treatment.


The In-between-ness pilot study was a novel collaboration between professional artists, clinical researchers and people suffering from depression; to extend the exploration of experiential effects of antidepressant treatment. The research team worked closely with patients, through their doctors, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and the North Wales Clinical School Research Department to explore the effects of treatment for depression. The aim of the study was to help us understand some of the effects of antidepressants and how people recover from depression.

This work was set in the context of a rapidly expanding knowledge of how the brain processes emotional stimuli, how these processes are affected by depression, and how these processes change in response to treatment. People with depression show characteristic changes in the way they perceive the world around them, particularly the way they interpret emotional stimuli, for example interpreting facial expressions in others. To inform future directions of research in this area this innovative art/science collaboration explored experiential changes during treatment with antidepressants. It built upon experience over several years of Arts in Health projects across Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, supporting professional artists in residence in a variety of health care settings across North Wales. The project was also inspired by previous studies using photography as a means to explore personal authenticity in children being treated with stimulants for ADHD (Singh, I. 2008). In addition to the aims of the psychiatrists, the artists were keen to explore the role of preverbal language and creativity for patients navigating the “in-between-ness” from depression to recovery. This was informed by concepts of preverbal language and ‘in-between-ness’ (Heald, K. 2013), and ‘psychological resonance’ (Liggett, S. 2008).

Karen Heald uses video as an imaginative artistic tool to create ephemeral site-specific artworks and non-linear ‘dream films’ that explore the philosophical sophistication of arts and science collaborations. Susan Liggett has been a practicing painter since the late 1980’s and is interested in creativity. The title of her PhD thesis was ‘psychological resonance’ and was an examination of five contemporary painters’ creative processes.

Karen and Susan worked one-to-one with the patients to explore how their view of themselves changed as they recovered from depression. This involved seeing patients before, during and after their treatment. The artists created objects imbued with exploratory text, to help focus the participants, to act on their creative impulses with the video camera to produce artworks. The patients were asked to respond to these visual prompts, which consisted of specific requests. For example, engraved around the rim of a magnifying glass was the wording ‘look more closely at something you have not really looked at before’. This helped the participants think in different ways about the images they were capturing. Participants began filming for 24 hours before commencing antidepressant medication, and continued throughout the first six weeks of treatment. Each week the participants met with the artists to review and discuss their films. From this visual analysis participants were encouraged to reflect on: how their emotional perception of their environment was changing; their sense of self and personal authenticity; and their sense of agency and affirmation in relation to their recovery.

The artworks, with consent, have since been displayed in exhibitions, discussed at conferences and will form part of an artist’s books made collaboratively between the artists and the participants.

The artworks, with consent, have since been displayed in exhibitions, discussed at conferences and will form part of an artist’s books made collaboratively between the artists and the participants.

What Addo Did

Project Management focusing on curating public displays of the resultant artworks.

Outcomes & Legacy

The participants sessions with the artists promoted independence and sustainability and appeared to have avoided the usual elation followed by an emotional decline. The participants voiced personal expressions of significant improvements through the relationship with the artistic methodology – as opposed to antidepressant treatment. Half of the group have already bought video cameras with the others also wishing to continue with filming and the creative process. Both the material generated by the participants and the response of the professional artists to this material are part of a touring exhibition, artist’s/participant book set and website. The first one took place in January 2013, and two further exhibitions are scheduled in July and September 2013, (please see forthcoming expositions). Building upon this experience several of the prompts from the In-between-ness project have also been exhibited in Venice, Italy during the Biennial (2011).