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How Art Heals: Integrating Practice and Research with Professor Shaun McNiff

On 22 September 2018 we were delighted to welcome Professor Shaun McNiff, veteran art therapist, prolific author and wonderful artist to run a one-day symposium for London Art Therapy Centre.

Many art therapists have read his books and for those who are not familiar with his work: Shaun McNiff is author of Imagination in Action: Secrets for Unleashing Creative Expression; Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting GoArt HealsArt as MedicineIntegrating the Arts in Therapy; Art-Based Research; Art as Research and other books. An exhibiting painter who has had a seminal influence on the areas of creativity enhancement, the arts and healing, and art-based research, he has lectured and taught throughout the world. McNiff has received various honors and awards for his work including the Honorary Life Member Award of the American Art Therapy Association. He established the first integrated arts in therapy and education graduate training program at Lesley University from which the field of expressive arts therapy emerged and in 2002 Lesley appointed him as its first University Professor.

There were 118 participants, mostly arts therapists and trainees but also psychotherapists, researchers and other health professionals. The hotel conference room was colourfully decorated and packed with people. We were worried there would be insufficient space to make art in but the super-experienced Shaun imbued a creative energy and vitality that forged authentic connections amongst the art therapy community. We worked together, co-creating, collaborating, witnessing, moving to the beat of his drum and kalimba.

We had hoped to revitalise and re-inspire our colleagues, many of whom were feeling increasingly institutionalised in their various workplaces and he did not disappoint. Where people may have been expecting to use colours and paint, Shaun had asked for black conte-crayons and black sharpie pens only. Yet the day was full of colour.


We worked individually, in pairs and as a group. In the afternoon we bound found objects from nature and ceremoniously shared our creations with each person, encircling the group, honouring the work. Shaun reminded us again and again to pause, to reflect, to notice and we collectively experienced the positive effects of slowing down.

During his visit, we had also booked Shaun to run two one-day Masterclasses at London Art Therapy Centre. There were a maximum of 10 participants for each workshop and the art therapists at the centre were privileged to have these additional experiential days with him. Since the visit, everyone at the centre has been reverberating with a fresh glow, feeling the benefits of his teaching and sharing.

Another bonus for the art therapy community was the attendance from tutors from art therapy training colleges including University of Hertfordshire, Goldsmiths University, University of South Wales, Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education, Tobias School of Arts and Therapy, as well as art therapy authors and researchers. London Art Therapy Centre was delighted to bring so many people together for the benefit of art therapy and ultimately for the clients.

Please enjoy our gallery of images (see below) from the Shaun McNiff events, with thanks to art therapist Mirella Issaias for taking photographs, as well as some lovely comments which are quoted with permission to share.

The film of the day is being edited by recently graduated art therapist Lucy Qandil and will be uploaded soon.

Thank you enormously to my colleagues Gary Nash, Kim Davies, Pia Jones and Elaine Zaple Gulliver who worked extremely hard together to help put on an excellent event.

Hephzibah Kaplan
Director London Art Therapy Centre



Excellent day, everything was very well-paced. An absolute gem of a day and one I will treasure. I will be using much of my learning today in my work with clients and myself. Thank you so much.  
–Amanda Dudley, AT

One of the best AT events I have attended. 
–Eden O Shoo, AT

I found the day so inspiring and it gave me the opportunity to reconnect to my artistic background and free-up side of myself, thanks so much…
–Giulietta del Signore, Integrative Child Psychotherapist

Superbly organised, facilitated friendly, collegiate atmosphere, thank you

Inspiring, vivid. Came for an injection of enthusiasm and got it!
–Helen Ingham, Trainee AT

It gave me ideas and different perspective on my art therapy practice. A lovely day to learn and interact.

Thank you so much. The sense of the ‘collective’ was palpable and so much love and care in the room. Incredibly energising.
Sarah Bartholomew, AT

A wonderful day, inspirational, So many things to think about and ideas to work with.
–Stella Joel, AT

Thank you for an excellent day, really valuable and Shaun was a fabulous facilitator and hugely generous

Thank you so much for arranging this wonderful day for us! It’s been wonderful having Shaun in London with us
–Claire-Louise Leyland, AT

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