Zubala, Ania

Authentic and imagined: art therapy in the digital world

Ania Zubala

Is there a place for art therapy in the digital world? Is there a place for digital technology in the therapeutic realm? As a result of technological innovations, health and care are becoming increasingly digitalised, with interventions translated into eHealth and digital therapeutics. While digitalisation of healthcare poses a myriad of questions of an ethical and a pragmatic nature, the opportunities it creates for therapy and wellbeing should not be overlooked. It is argued that technology enables access to therapy for remote populations, does not necessarily reduce human contact, and could in fact add value to treatment and recovery.

In this talk we will explore possible connections between art therapy and technology and consider benefits for clients, therapists and ageing communities. We will wonder whether and how art therapists are making use of digital technology to reach clients living remotely and in what areas, if any, innovation might extend the therapeutic tool box. We will present the findings of our systematic review documenting the growing research evidence around the use of technology in art therapy. We will then discuss a feasibility study exploring the views of art therapists practicing in remote areas of Scotland. We will consider what technology means in the context of the Scottish Highlands and how it relates to the nature of art therapy practice in remote and rural areas.

Throughout the talk we will reflect on the conference themes. We will consider the intangible, almost abstract character of digital technology in relation to the sensual and concrete art materials. Is digital less true, less authentic? Are we ready to face the unknown of the emerging digital world with trust? Imagination might be the key.



Ania Zubala, PhD, is a research fellow in health psychology at the University of the Highland and Islands, Scotland, where she develops research in arts therapies and arts in health, with particular focus on digital health and the wellbeing of remote communities and ageing populations. Ania’s doctoral work enhanced understanding of arts therapies’ role in treatment and prevention of depression. She is a peer-reviewer for a number of academic journals in the area of arts therapies, psychology and health and a collaborator and consultant on arts therapies research projects in the UK and beyond.


Recent Publications

Zubala, A., & Karkou, V. (Eds.) (2018). Arts Therapies in the Treatment of Depression. Routledge.

Zubala, A. (2018). An essence of the therapeutic process in an art therapy group for adults experiencing depression: Therapy process mapping. In: Zubala, A., & Karkou, V. (Eds.) Arts Therapies in the Treatment of Depression (pp. 102-119). Routledge.

Zubala, A., & Karkou, V. (2018). Introduction: Arts therapies' response to the global crisis of depression: current research and future developments. In: Zubala, A. & Karkou, V. (Eds.), Arts Therapies in the Treatment of Depression (pp. 1-10). Routledge.

Zubala, A., Lyszkiewicz, K., Lee, E., Underwood, L., Renfrew, M., & Gray, N. (2018). Large-scale online education programmes and their potential to effect change in behaviour and practice of health and social care professionals: a rapid systematic review. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-16. DOI: 10.1080/10494820.2018.1465438

Recent presentations

2017: Zubala, A., & Karkou, V. Arts therapies’ role in the treatment of depression: Showcasing best research practice in the context of tradition and cultures. Paper presented at 14th European Arts Therapies Conference (ECArTE), Krakow, Poland.