Clay Transformations was an innovative research project based at the University of Nottingham which investigated the therapeutic effects of using clay in work with teenagers dealing with feelings of anger, anxiety and depression. The project team was a cross disciplinary mix of academics, psychologists, psychotherapists and local artists, teamed up with professionals in the NHS, third sector and colleagues at Nottingham Contemporary and City Arts.

The one-year project (2011-2012) focused on research that will support young people who access local mental health services often leading to psychosocial issues, exclusion and challenges regarding school environments. The researchers tested how working with clay might have a positive impact upon young people, and particularly how clay sculpting might help young people to express their thoughts and emotions. Anecdotally, we know clay appears to offer potential therapeutic effects and that through moulding, squashing, bending and breaking the clay it can have cathartic effects. The project developed tools to examine the use of clay in therapeutic contexts with particular focus on how clay enables participants to overcome social inhibition. With its qualities of cold resistance and suitability for creative play, clay could be an exciting alternative therapy for young people suffering from a range of mental health vulnerabilities, including ADHD and autism.

The outcomes of this project and measures of inhibition were not conclusive, however there is future work planned with Nottingham University to undertake further research into this area of work.

This project was funded by Nottingham University.