arts and health Churchill Fellowships psychology

#1. Begin in Paris in Spring

Clinical training was tough, and I found engaging in creative practice – of whichever kind – provided a special mixture of release, expression, absorption, problem-solving, reflection and a sense of achievement. I increased my use of creative methods in clinical practice and eventually focussed my research on the arts and mental health.

No culture has ever existed without art, affirming its centrality and importance. We treasure examples from across the ages and display them in galleries and museums around the world.  I start this blog from The Louvre in Paris where the is the Mona Lisa is guarded. Can science explain our interest in her gaze, or is intuition also an effective way of knowing? As psychologists, we are trained to be scientists – but also to acknowledge the limits of science and to draw on our intuition or “fast-thinking,” (see Kahneman: Thinking Fast and Slow) a route to our subconscious which tends to be more accurate than our slower rational thought (also see Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink). The potential for art to connect and engage disparate parts of the brain is something that fascinates me.

The role of the arts in human culture and connection is perhaps sensed more acutely here at The Louvre than anywhere I have ever been before.

From the first empire in history, Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), enormous and impressive stone carvings depicting human-headed bulls stand 4 metres high. Their impressive scale and detail challenged my ability to empathise with the meaning or purpose of art.  I walked onwards to 19th Century European Paintings and viewed The Wedding at Cana, hung opposite the Mona Lisa. This vast image tells the story of Jesus turning water into wine; but I noticed that even in a painting this most famous legend, it is the musicians at the foreground in the centre.

Wedding at Cana

As I continued through the vast spaces housing many diverse artworks and artefacts, I again mused on the power of arts to document and convey feeling and connection beyond the reach of words. Did you know, only 10% of our understanding of meaning is derived from the actual words chosen? The majority is conveyed via tone and body language. While language has its own artforms and can sensitively convey depth of experience, after and beyond there still remain things to be said. Perhaps this is why the arts are linked to complex experiences and to mental distress; we need an additional and alternative route than language alone.

Funnily enough, on my roam around Paris yesterday I came across the Insitut Finlandias, and I hope to return during opening hours this weekend in preparation for my trip to Finland from 20th May – 10th June 2017.

I will write a little about this next time along with more about why Finland features in my arts and health Churchill Fellowship.

Receive updates here. 

Churchill Travel

So this is it! A dive into the unknown… also see: Skydive – which I ended up doing on my last day in Paris! A lovely symbol of the leap of faith I am taking into blogging…


Thanks for reading and lastly: get in touch! The Churchill Fellowship will allow me to travel and investigate arts and health initiatives; do you have an organisation I could visit? Or might you have a request for a blog topic? Ask away! Stay Involved to receive an email when I post.

Our Dementia and Imagination team hosted a stall at UTOPIA Fair, Somerset House, London    |    @communikatt


Next time: Episode #2: an insight into an exhibition at Insitut Finlandais.

Episode #3: Creativity and Bipolar Disorder, by those with lived experience

I'm a senior clinical psychologist in NHS Children’s services (CAMHS), and in 2018 was appointed to manage the new and innovative Arts and Mental Health Innovation programme, part of the wider transformation of children's services, the national THRIVE Programme. This blog began to help me record and share my 2017 Churchill Travelling Fellowship, following a research role at Arts for Health, Manchester Metropolitan University. I have worked in several university psychology research departments including the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University, notable for its service user involvement, and on the Dementia & Imagination research programme.

0 comments on “#1. Begin in Paris in Spring

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: