The Research Institute for Creative Arts Therapies (RIArT)

Click here for the German version

The RIArT (Forschungsinstitut für Künstlerische Therapien) is a research institute in Germany with national and international focus that is dedicated to: conducting and promoting research in Creative Arts Therapies (CATs), the scientific advancement of theories, methods and empirical research (efficacy, effectiveness, therapeutic factors, and arts-based research), as well as the promotion and qualification of academic researchers in the field.

The creative art therapies include art therapy, music therapy, dance movement therapy, drama therapy, poetry therapy, eurythmy therapy, and others. Each one uses art, and art-making, in order to support diverse client groups with stabilization and with integrated health needs. At the RIArT, we have adopted an overarching research approach and investigate the effects and change factors of all creative arts therapies, as well as arts-based research methods. The specific identities, and arts therapies methods, of each CAT modality are examined within an evidence-based frame (outcomes and process research). Aesthetics is an assumed therapeutic factor (change factor) of every subdiscipline, more precisely, being aesthetically moved by active and receptive creative interventions. Aesthetic experiences strengthen various protective factors, and resilience. The RIArT investigates these topics with quantitative, qualitative and arts-based research methods.

    The mission of the RIArT is to:

    • employ creative arts therapy study protocols that join the specificity of the arts with evidence-based outcomes
    • advance empirical research on, and knowledge of, key mechanisms of creative arts therapies
    • highlight the contribution of creative arts therapies to unique epistemological knowledge
    • describe, in a participatory way and from the patient's perspective, the effects and factors of creative arts therapies, and
    • promote theory-building within the creative arts therapies.

    Research specialities:

    • Prof. Dr. Harald Gruber //Art therapy, art therapy in oncology and palliative medicine,  change factors.
    • Prof. Dr. Sabine C. Koch // Dance movement therapy, embodiment, arts therapies in mental health, autism, refugees, outcome studies,  change factor research, Journal of Arts Therapies (JAT).
    • Dr. Katharina Gerlach // Eurythmy Therapy, documentation, case vignettes, COVID-19-rehabilitation, care medicine research.
    • Lily Martin, MSc // Drama therapy, scientific methods, statistics, schizophrenia/psychosis, motion capture, participatory arts-based research, phenomenological interviews.
    • Dr. Maya Vulcan, MA (DMT) // postdoctoral researcher, dance therapy and autism, DMT education, DMT and couples, international collaborations. 

    A selection of recent individual publications appears below. For a comprehensive list of publications by RIArT researchers, please consult individual staff webpages.

    Koch, S. C., Stange, S., Ernst, N., Kinnen, J., Juhart, M., Schöder, M., Schwab de Ribaupierre, U., Merschmeyer, B., Schmidt, G., Eydam, A., Rhalff, K., Klees, S., Junker, J, & Huess, H. (forthcoming). The healing power of theatre: Drama therapy for strengthening the resilience of children after the German 2021 flood disaster.

    Dunphy, K., Lebre, P., Dumaresq, E., Schoenenberger-Howie, S. A., Geipel, J. & Koch, S. C. (2023). Reliability and short version of the Dunphy Outcomes Framework. Advancing the art and science of Dance Movement Therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy (à ADTA Research Award 2023 J)

    Podolski, O., Whitfield, T., Schaaf, L., Cornaro, C., Köbe, T., Koch, S. C., & Wirth, M. (2023). The impact of dance movement interventions on psychological health in older adults without dementia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Brain Sciences, 13(7), 981.

    Bracco, L., Cornaro, C., Pinto-Carral, A., Koch, S. C., & Mourey, F. (2023). Tango-therapy intervention for older adults with cognitive impairment living in nursing homes. Effects on quality of life, physical abilities and gait. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(4), 3521.

    Arnaud, C., & Koch, S. C. (2022). The art of managing stress – effectiveness of creative arts interventions for stress reduction and stress management: a systematic review. GMS Journal of Arts Therapies, 4, Doc09.

    Daniel, S., Wimpory, D., Delafield-Butt, J. T., Malloch, S., Holck, U., Geretsegger, M., Tortora, S., Osborne, N., Schögler, B., Koch, S. C., Elias-Masiques, J., Howorth, M.-C., Dunbar, P., Swan, K., Rochat, M. J., Schlochtermeier, R., Forster, K., & Amos, P. (2022). Rhythmic Relating: Bidirectional Support for Social Timing in Autism Therapies. Frontiers in Psychology,13, 793258. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.793258.

    DeWitte, M., Orkibi, H., Zarate, R., Karkou, V., Sajnani, N., Malhotra, B., Ho, R. T., Kaimal, G., Baker, F. A., & Koch, S. C. (2021).From Therapeutic Factors to Mechanisms of Change in the Creative Arts Therapies: A Scoping Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 678397. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.678397.

    Koch, S. C. (2020). Indications and contraindications in dance movement therapy: learning from practitioners’ experience. Journal of Arts Therapies, 2.

    Koch, S. C., Riege, R.F.F., Tisborn, K., Biondo, J., Martin, L., & Beelmann, A. (2019). Effects of Dance Movement Therapy and Dance on Health-Related Psychological Outcomes. A Meta-Analysis Update. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1806.

    Gruber, H. (2021) Durch Kunst – „... auf wundersame Weise meine Worte wieder gefunden ...“ Spiritual Care 10(3), 246–248.

    Gruber, H., Bonin v. D., & Heckel, V. (2021) Künstlerische Therapien in der Integrativen Onkologie. In: Integrative Onkologie. Matthes et al. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft Stuttgart.

    Weis, J., & Gruber, H. (2020) Künstlerische Therapien. In: Psychologie in der medizinischen Rehabilitation. Ein Lehr- und Praxishandbuch. Hrsg. Bengel, J; Mittag, O. 2. Auflage., S. 161-170. Springer, Berlin.

    Gruber, H., & Oepen, R. (2018) Emotion regulation strategies and effects in art-making: A narrative synthesis. The Arts in Psychotherapy (59) S. 65-74

    Martin, L., Oepen, R., Bauer, K., Nottensteiner, A., Mergheim, K., Gruber, H., & Koch, S. C. (2018). Creative Arts Interventions for Stress Management and Prevention - A Systematic Review. Behavioral Science, 8(2), 28.

    Koch, S. C., Martin, L., Tschacher, W., & Fuchs, T. (2017). Embodied Aesthetics and Interpersonal Resonance, Special Issue in Behavioral Sciences

    Koch, S. C. (2017).Arts and health. Active factors and a theory framework of embodied aesthetics. Arts in Psychotherapy, 54, 85-91.

    Gerlach, K. (2019). Development of a documentation instrument for movement-orientated Mind-Body-Therapies taking the example of Eurythmy-Therapy. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.04.004

    Gerlach, K. (2021). Leitfaden für Fallvignetten in der Eurythmietherapie. Der Merkurstab. DOI: 10.14271/DMS-21367-DE

    Szöke, H., Sommer, M., Streit, E., Grah, C., Winkler, M., Busche, P., Pöchtrager, S., Mergelsberg, J., Wullschleger, C., Gerlach, K., Fitger, R., Matthes, H., Soldner, G. (2021). Long COVID from the Perspective of Anthroposophic Medicine – Symptoms and Treatment Options. Der Merkurstab online.

    Streater, O. (2022). Truth, Justice and Accountability. Dance movement therapy as an innovative trauma treatment modality. Body Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy. DOI:10.1080/17432979.2021.20163

    Nationally, our closest cooperation partner is the University of Witten/Herdecke, Faculty of Health; Chair of Medical Theory, Integrative and Anthroposophic Medicine Prof. Dr. David Martin, Prof. Dr. Arndt Büssing, PD. Dr. Bettina Berger, Prof. Dr. Dirk Czysarz and the Integrative Studies in Anthroposophic Medicine (IBAM), Prof. Dr. Friedrich Edelhäuser.

    A central prerequisite for the foundation of the Research Institute for Creative Arts Therapies at Alanus University (RIArT) was the cooperation between the Department of Creative Arts Therapies and Therapy Science at Alanus University and the Faculty for Health at the University of Witten/Herdecke. The fundamental tasks include the cooperative structural development of the RIArT, as well as, the development and implementation of a doctoral program for Creative Arts Therapies.

    Our international cooperation partners are: Drexel University, Lesley University, New York University, University of Haifa, University of Melbourne, University of Edge Hill, University of Amsterdam, and University of Hong Kong.

    For further information on cooperation projects and initiatives, please see the NYU Creative Arts Therapies Consortium

    University collaborations

    • Department for Creative Arts Therapies, PhD Program // Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA // Prof. Dr. Sherry Goodill (DMT), Prof. Dr. Joke Bradt (MT), Prof. Dr. Nancy Gerber (AT)
    • PhD Program Expressive Arts Therapies // Lesley University, Boston, USA // Prof. Dr. Robyn Cruz (DMT), Rebecca Zarate (MT), Nancy Berdal (DMT), Jason Butler (DT), et al.
    • New York University (NYU), Creative Arts Therapies, Drama Therapy // Prof. Dr. Nisha Sanjani (DT)
    • Creative Arts Therapies Research Institute // University of Haifa // Prof. Dr. Hod Orkibi, Prof. Dr. Dita Federman, Prof. Dr. Rachel Lev; Prof. Dr. Dafna Regev; Prof. Dr. Einat Shuper-Engelhart
    • Creative Arts Therapy Research Unit // University of Melbourne Australia // Dr. Kim Dunphy, Prof. Dr. Felicity Baker, Prof. Dr. Katherina McFerran, Prof. Dr. Janette Grandin, Prof. Dr. Imogen Clark, and others
    • Art Therapy Program // Hofstra University, USA // Prof. Dr. Elkis-Abuhoff (AT)
    • Art Therapy and Social Work // University of the Negev, IL // Prof. Dr. Ephrat Huss (AT)
    • Somatic Psychology Program // Naropa University, Boulder, CO // Prof. Dr. Christine Caldwell
    • Dance Movement Psychotherapy // University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK // Prof. Dr. Helen Payne (DMT)
    • Directorate of Nursing, Therapies and Social Work, Research and Development // Psychiatric University Hospital (Burghölzli) Zurich, CH // Dr. Iris Bräuninger (DMT)
    • Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) Instituto National de Radiología y Oncología, (INOR) Havana // Universidad de las Artes Cuba // Ms C. Ruslan Torres Leyva, Prof. Dr. Corbelo Alfonso (AT)
    • Departament de Psicologia clínica i de la salut // Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) // Dr. Heidrun Panhofer
    • Chair of Medical Theory, Integrative and Anthroposophic Medicine, Institute of Psychology // University of Witten-Herdecke // Prof. Dr. Friedrich Edelhäuser, Prof. Dr. Thomas Ostermann, Prof. Dr. David Martin, Prof. Dr. em. Peter Heusser, Prof. Dr. A. Büssing, PD B. Berger, et al.
    • Karl Jaspers Chair, Phenomenological Psychopathology // University of Heidelberg // Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Fuchs
    • Institute of Psychology // University of Heidelberg // Prof. Dr. Sabine Pauen, Sven Barnow, Monika Sieverding, Joachim Funke, Birgit Spinat, Dirk Hagemann, Klaus Fiedler
    • IWR Department of Robotics // University of Heidelberg // Prof. Dr. Katja Mombaur
    • Institute for Art Therapy and Research // Ottersberg University of the Arts (HKS) // Prof. Dr. G. Schmidt
    • Institute for Creative Arts Therapies // Nürtingen University of Applied Sciences // Prof. Dr. Constanze Schulze (AT), Prof. Dr. Johannes Junker (DT)
    • Faculty of Therapy Sciences // SRH University of Applied Sciences Heidelberg // Prof. Dr. Thomas Hillecke, Prof. Dr. Dorothee von Moreau, Prof. Dr. Alexander Wormit
    • Faculty of Social Sciences and Law // SRH University of Applied Sciences Heidelberg // Prof. Dr. Barbara Wolf, Prof. Dr. Bettina Wuttig, Prof. Dr. Andres Stefanowski

    Clinical Cooperations

    • CIO – Center for Integrative Oncology // University Hospital Bonn // Prof. Dr. Ingo Schmidt-Wolf // M. Neumann // V. Wilberg
    • University Medicine Essen // Dr. Susann Kobus
    • Clinic and Polyclinic for Palliative Medicine // University Hospital Bonn // Prof. Dr. Lukas Radbruch
    • Malteser Hospital Seliger Gerhard Bonn/Rhein-Sieg // University Hospital Bonn // Prof. Dr. Lukas Radbruch
    • Psychiatric University Hospital // Heidelberg University Hospital // Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Fuchs, Prof. Dr. Sabine Herpertz, PD Dr. Knut Schnell
    • Institute for Medical Psychology // Heidelberg University Hospital // Prof. Dr. Beate Ditzen
    • Department of Psychiatry // University Hospital Bonn // Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Meier
    • Clinic and Polyclinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of Childhood and Adolescence // University Hospital Cologne // Prof. Dr. Gert Lehmkuhl, Prof. Dr. Edgar Schömig
    • Center for Social Psychiatry // Rehbergpark, Herborn // Prof. Dr. Matthias Wildermuth
    • LVR Klinikum Düsseldorf // University Hospital Düsseldorf // Creative Therapy House, Dr. Peter Hoffmann // Executive Director, Prof. Dr. Eva Meisenzahl-Lechner
    • LVR Klinikum Bonn // Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma Outpatient Clinic // Prof. Dr. Stefan Reichelt // Adult Psychiatry, Jana Berg, M.A.

    Neuroscience Meets Dance in Therapy

    Responsible: Prof. Dr. Sabine C. Koch
    PIs: Vicky Karkou, Valentina Charuzzo, Stergios Makris
    Cooperation with: Corinne Jola, Guido Orgs, Bettina Bläsing, Rainbow Ho, Hod Orkibi, Felicity Baker
    Funding: AHRC (UK)

    Fluthilfe Ahrtal: Drama Therapy to strengthen resilience of 3-9 year old children affected by the flooding of 2021 - Project evaluation
    Responsible: Prof. Dr. Sabine C. Koch, Manuela Juhart
    Cooperation with: Institute for Drama Therapy IIG, University of Nürtingen
    Funding: Hans-Riegel-Stiftung Bonn

    The Pop-Up Institute. Reducing Stigma by Means of Creative Arts Therapies.

    In cooperation with: Kerstin Schoch (HKS Ottersberg)
    Responsible: Lily Martin
    Third-party funding: Volkswagen Stiftung

    Art therapy in oncology

    In cooperation with: Prof. Dr. I. Schmidt-Wolf (University Hospital Bonn)
    Responsible: Prof. H. Gruber, Prof. S. Koch
    Third-party funding: "Spendenparlament Bonn" (Bonn Donation Parliament)
    Since 2018
    Documentation and commentary of first eurythmy therapy treatments at the clinical-therapeutic institute in Arlesheim.

    In cooperation with: Prof. Annette Weißkircher, Matthias Girke, M.D. (Section Head, Medical Section at the Goetheanum, Switzerland), M.A. Rob Schapink and M.A. Norman Kingeter (Arlesheim- Kliniken).
    Responsible: Prof. Annette Weißkircher
    Third-party funding: Christophorus Foundation, Foundation for Eurythmy Therapy, Anthroposophical Society Germany, Anneliese/Wilhelm zur Linden Foundation
    EASE Grant "An embodied approach to the study of experience", Research Network Chile, Slovenia, France, Germany on Embodiment & Neurophenomenology
    In cooperation with: Dr. María Isabel Gaete Celis (Universidad de Chile, Medicine), Prof. Dr. Michel Bitbol (CNRS, Paris), Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Fuchs (Uni Heidelberg), Prof. Dr. Sabine C. Koch (Alanus); Prof. Dr. Sebastjan Vörös (University of Ljubljana, Arts)
    Responsible: Camila Valenzuela Moguillansky, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago de Chile
    Third-party funding: Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (CONICYT) Chile

    Digital Assessment in Dance Movement Therapy

    In cooperation with: Dr. K. Dunphy, Prof. F. Baker (University of Melbourne)
    Responsible: Prof. S. Koch
    Third-party funding: DAAD

    Heidelberg Center for Motion Research (HCMR) - Cooperative interdisciplinary research laboratory for motion studies
    Responsible: Prof. Dr. Katja Mombaur, Robotics, Institute for Scientific Computing (University of Heidelberg); Cooperation: Prof. Dr. Sabine Koch; L. Martin
    Third-party funding: Zeiss Foundation

    Select project outlines

    Digital Assessment in Dance Movement Therapy
    We worked on the Digital Assessemnt Tool MARA-App (for free download: in collaboration with the University of Melbourne in this DAAD-funded research project. A central aim of the project was to further develop a mobile app to document and evaluate movement therapy interventions and to systematically collect relevant data from movement therapy sessions. The project included a validation study of the participatory outcome framework (a generic questionnaire integrated in the app), and studies to extend the app to other arts therapies. The 2018 ADTA Research Award was awarded to Kim Dunphy for her article on the app (Dunphy, K. & Hens, T. (2018). Outcome-Focused Dance Movement Therapy Assessment Enhanced by iPad App MARA. Frontiers in Psychology, 29, Oct.

    Art Therapy in Oncology
    In 2019, the collaborative research project Art Therapy in Oncology was developed at the University Hospital Bonn / Center for Integrated Oncology (CIO; Prof. Dr. Ingo Schmidt-Wolf). In this first round of the project we tested a digital approach to art therapy with breast cancer patients. In a second round an RCT is planned. 
    People diagnosed with advanced cancer are often very stressed. In addition to the physical stresses chemotherapy, the psychological stress is particularly significant. CIO Bonn is a recognised provider of cancer care that already offers patients the care of psycho-oncologists. It is clear from the experiences of psycho-oncologists and patients that sometimes "there are simply no words" to communicate and process related thoughts and feelings. As such, the UKB Cancer Center will be offering patients the possibility of art therapy. The offer was developed and structurally implemented together with RIArT. It is evaluated on an ongoing basis. The project is financially supported by the "Spendenparlament Bonn". 

    International Research Alliance

    The NYU Creative Arts Therapies Consortium is led by Dr. N. Sajnani (New York University, and has been in operation since 2018. The Consortium is home to research institutes that provide doctoral training across the arts therapies. Its members are:

    • New York University (NYU Steinhardt)
    • Alanus University Bonn
    • University of Haifa
    • The University of Melbourne
    • Lesley University
    • Drexel University
    • Edge Hill University
    • University of Hongkong

    In addition to the cooperation and promotion of new and emerging researchers with regard to PhD candidates, the Consortium undertakes research and publication cooperation through individual members and is jointly engaged in a World Health Organization (WHO) report to elucidate the worldwide evidence base for the Creative Arts Therapies. An example of the latter is the following collaborative project:

    International cooperation on therapeutic factor research

    At the 2019 European Consortium of Creative Arts Therapies Educators (ECArTE) Conference in Alcalá de Henares, and a pre-conference of the International Doctoral Consortium at the New York University (NYU) branch in Madrid, change factor research in Creative Arts Therapies was identified as a current important topic. Under the stewardship of Alanus (RIArT), University of Haifa, University of Melbourne, Lesley University, and the University of Amsterdam, a group has formed to conduct an initial systematic review of the empirical findings on change factor research in relation to all arts therapies (including poetry therapy), in order for both research findings and research gaps to be easily available in overview. Primary studies, and further secondary studies, can then be planned based on this review. The group includes excellent researchers in the field of Creative Arts Therapies. The participating researchers have created a scoping review on change factors that was published in a Special Issue on Creative Arts Therapies in Frontiers in Psychology. For this publication project, the International Research Alliance of the NYU CAT Consortium has been extended to include the University of Hong Kong (Prof. Dr. Rainbow Ho).

    GMS Journal of Arts Therapies -

    Journal of Art-, Music-, Dance-, Drama- and Poetry-Therapy

     The German Scientific Society for Arts Therapies (WFKT) operates the open access online journal GMS Journal of Arts Therapies (JAT) on the German Medical Science (GMS) web platform. The first issue of the online journal was published in 2019. 

    Visit the journal's website for more information:

    ISSN: 2629-3366, OCLC number: 1107349490.

    Submissions are invited for research and review papers, project reports, short articles, and discussion papers and commentaries on Creative Arts Therapies, Arts in Medicine and Psychotherapy, and Arts and Health from across the methodological spectrum of evidence-based medicine. In addition to quantitative research, change factor research, observational studies, qualitative research, and case studies, we welcome contributions from arts-based research. We advocate participatory and ethically reflective research principles. Publications are accepted in English and German and must include an English abstract.

    Prof. Dr. rer. medic Harald Gruber
    Dean, Head of Institute for Art Therapy, Professorship for Art Therapy / Research
    Department of Creative Arts Therapies and Therapy Science; RIArT – Research Institute for Creative Arts Therapies

    Prof. Dr. phil. habil. Sabine C. Koch
    Head of Research Institute for Creative Arts Therapies, Professorship for Empirical Research in Creative Arts Therapies
    Research Institute for Creative Arts Therapies, RIArT

    Prof. Annette Weißkircher
    Professor of Eurythmy with a focus on Eurythmy Therapy
    Former head of the Institute for Eurythmy Therapy at the Department of Creative Arts Therapies and Therapy Science.

    Dr. Katharina Gerlach
    Research associate - focus area eurythmy therapy

    Lily Martin
    Research Associate – focus area methodology
    Research Institute for Creative Arts Therapies, RIArT

    Click here for the German version of the article.