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Neglected area of research highlighted in new Abertay art exhibition

12 September 2013

A new art exhibition highlighting a neglected area of research within the field of counselling and psychotherapy will open at Abertay University on Monday (September 16th).

‘Trans-formations – dialogues between therapy and art’ explores the ways in which being creative can benefit not just those seeking emotional support, but the counsellors and therapists who provide this support as well.

The artworks that will go on display are a selection of those created by 10 experienced counsellors who were asked to represent what creativity meant to them as part of a research study carried out by Alison Rouse – a Counsellor and part-time Lecturer at the University.

All the participants were actively involved in some form of creative arts outside of their counselling work, and the study and exhibition highlight how this kind of creativity can make counsellors better able to connect with, and help, their clients.

Alison Rouse, who carried out the research, explains:

“Art in its many varied forms can powerfully communicate our human struggles and capacities, and open us to new perspectives and experiences - which is also the territory of therapeutic work: counselling is often concerned with enabling clients to tap into their creative and problem-solving resources, and it has been suggested that a counsellor’s ability to access their own creativity has a direct relationship to the effectiveness of this therapeutic task.

“While there is a body of literature examining the role creativity plays in the development of our sense of self, and as a means of helping clients deal with emotional problems - in the form of art therapy for example - there has really been very little empirical research into the benefits of creativity in counselling, and in particular to the creativity of the therapist.

“So this is quite a new area of research, and it's particularly exciting that we’re able to exhibit the artworks that were created for the study. I hope it will capture people's imaginations and get them thinking about the power of creativity, because what we found here in this particular piece of research, was that creativity was central to the participants’ counselling practice, and to being able to connect with and be helpful to their clients.

“Cultivating our personal creativity can have enormous benefits for our work as counsellors; developing our intuitive capacities, our recognition of underlying patterns and themes, having the fluidity of movement between the detail and the bigger picture, and working with the whole person – our sensory experience – all of these capacities are vital to both art and therapy. I think that is a really important outcome of the research – putting creativity at the centre of another area of our lives.”

Clare Brennan, Curator of the Hannah Maclure Centre at Abertay University where the exhibition will be held, added:

“At Abertay, we’re keen to use different ways of letting people know about the exciting research that takes place here, as it’s not everyone who reads an academic paper. So it’s great when there’s an opportunity to use art as a means of communicating complex research, as it means the research can reach a much wider audience.

“And Alison’s study was perfectly suited to this, because the artwork was an inbuilt part of her research. The different ways the artists interpreted what was asked of them is fascinating, as there are paintings, video, poetry, sculpture and etchings, and we hope that the exhibition will really get people thinking – about creativity in all its many forms; about therapeutic practice; about our human experience and well-being; and about the ways in which we communicate research.”

Published alongside this exhibition is a limited edition book entitled “Trans-formations”, which brings together a selection of the artworks from Alison’s research with the work of Dr Rosie Stenhouse, whose research into patients’ experiences of being on an acute psychiatric ward, is represented as a series of poems.

The exhibition runs from Monday 16th September to Friday 25th October in the Hannah Maclure Centre, Abertay University, Bell Street, Dundee.

There will be a preview event on Friday 13th September.

A Symposium, chaired by Professor John Mcleod, will take place on Monday 7th October from 6.00 – 9.00pm, with a panel made up of the research contributors.

“Trans-formations” is available to buy from Abertay University’s online store, or can be purchased directly from the Hannah Maclure Centre during the exhibition.


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E:

Notes to Editors:

Alison Rouse is a Counsellor within Student Services and part-time Lecturer at Abertay University who has been completing a MSc by Research. She is also an artist.

Dr Rosie Stenhouse is a former Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at Abertay University. She is now based at Edinburgh University.

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