mental wellbeing

Re-framing the UK Riots – lessons from positive psychology

Everything we have learned about mental wellbeing teaches us that what works is proactivity and positive redirection. So why, in relation to the youth riots are we so keen to embrace an illness model and attribute cause?  Sure, we can surmise and perhaps that might even help us circumnavigate these types of problems in the future, but I would hazard a guess that even the youth themselves don’t know ‘what’s wrong’ only that ‘something is’.

From a slightly different perspective it seems clear that, although expressed pathologically, the riots represent an uncontrollable urge to feel a part of something, a physical sense of community, which as a human response is not so very different from the uncontrollable urge that drew adults in their hundreds to clean up the mess. So is it, in fact, possible that we have all been busy expressing the same social need?

So no, I don’t condone it, I don’t excuse it, but beyond this, if we are to be proactive and forward thinking we need to provide a vehicle that will ensure that hundreds of angry, disenfranchised youth, who have clearly demonstrated their ability to ‘pack’, don’t turn into angry, disenfranchised adults.

Young people need guidance, they need boundaries, they need positive mentors and they need industry. This is our long term solution. It is fundamental, it is the responsibility of our society to provide it and in doing so we may, in fact, find ourselves reconnecting with the same positive, social urge that had us picking up our brooms in the first place.



Breast Cancer and Wellbeing

Over the past several months I have been workings with women contending with the many challenges of breast cancer at the Haven in Fulham. The Haven offers a unique environment with a wide variety of supportive and life enhancing programming from Qui Gong to nutritional advice and belly dancing. As my relationship and experience of this remarkable venue has developed, I have begun to see how, for many women, the experience of breast cancer is such a life changing event – and one that is not always entirely negative. There is the fear, of course, there is no denying that. The not knowing, the lack of control, the re-defining of who we are (all themes we have explored metaphorically in our art workshops), but this is where for many women the transformative qualities of breast cancer come into play. The opportunity to take stock, to look at our lives and say ‘I’ve been living this all wrong, I need to change, my life is precious’.  Amid the fear, many of the women I have met have seen their cancer as a strange door opened to possibility. We all need to take stock, personal stock and find ways to create moments to celebrate, to refuel and to nurture our own well-being. Mental well-being is not something that someone can give us, it can only be facilitated, the ultimate responsible lies with us and far from being frightening, that knowledge is empowering.

Mental Wellbeing in the workplace. What evidence supports a role for art therapy as an effective intervention?


Mental well-being in the workplace is an issue of increasing government, organisational and business interest as the social and economic costs of challenges to mental well-being are increasingly recognised.  Supporting mental well-being in the workplace is, however, a complex intervention challenge. In contrast to the illness-model approach of previous stress-based interventions, new research suggests that proactive, wellness modelled interventions provide a more appropriate solution for the support and enhancement of employee mental well-being.

In response to the need to identify intervention approaches which can proactively and successfully respond to this multi-faceted issue, the objective of this research was to identify what evidence supports art therapy as an effective mental well-being in the workplace intervention.

To achieve this objective, this study employed a thematic analysis of primary research on mental well-being in the workplace and art therapy interventions with adult, non-clinical populations. The research captured evidence from a wide range of both qualitative and quantitative studies to reflect the ‘meaningfulness’ that is criticised for being lost by traditional systematic reviews. By synthesising themes between studies, this research identified the characteristics that support and challenge both employee mental well-being and intervention success.

A logic model was also designed and used to illustrate the findings of the research.

The first hypothesis, that art therapy is a sufficiently flexible intervention to respond to the complex mental-wellbeing needs of work-place populations was partially supported by the findings of the study. The second hypothesis, that art therapy is a sufficiently flexible technique to approach well-being from a proactive-wellness model of intervention was supported by the findings.

The findings indicate a high level of cross-over between the characteristics of both art therapy interventions and successful individual-level mental well-being in the workplace interventions. These characteristics included providing interventions which are meaningful, empowering and enjoyable.

The findings of this research indicate support for art therapy as an effective individual-level, mental-well-being in the workplace intervention; highlighting areas of both efficacy and challenge. Although the results are promising, more field research is needed to explore the use of art therapy with workplace populations.