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Art, creativity and emotion harnessed in Abertay University symposium

2 October 2013

'All of me, part of me, some of me, none of me - these are the labels I give myself' by Nadina Al-Jarrah

A group of counsellors, who are also practicing artists, will gather at Abertay University on Monday (October 7) to discuss the power of art in communicating human experience and emotions.

The symposium is associated with the university’s current art exhibition ‘Trans-formations – dialogues between therapy and art’, which 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 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 personal creativity enables counsellors to connect more deeply with, and enhances their abilities to help, their clients.

The role of creativity in counselling is a neglected area of research, and Monday’s symposium intends to bring it to the fore.

The panel for the event will be made up of four of the artists who took part in the research, as well as Dr Rosie Stenhouse, Clare Brennan – the Curator of the exhibition – and Alison herself. Alison and Rosie will chair the event.

Published alongside the 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 Stenhouse, whose research into patients’ experiences of being on an acute psychiatric ward, is represented as a series of poems.

Speaking ahead of the event Alison Rouse said:

“I’m really looking forward to this event, as it should be an interesting discussion. There is such a variety of works of art that everyone has produced in responding to the brief to represent what creativity meant to them - there are paintings, video, poetry, sculpture and etchings – so this will be a chance to hear, and bring together, our different perspectives.

“The evening is not only a panel discussion - we hope that the audience will join in with their thoughts and questions, so that it is a real dialogue. And in keeping with both research projects, we want to keep the power and impact of the creative voice to the fore.

“So Rosie and some of the participants will be reading the poetry (and prose) they produced as part of our respective research projects. It’s such a vast subject potentially, but a uniting theme of all the different work we’ll be discussing seems to be ‘creativity as finding and giving a voice’. The ‘voice’ is for us as individuals in forming a sense of self or identity; in the power art has to touch on experiences that are hard to access in other ways, or put words to; and as a way to evoke a deep understanding of another’s experience when using it as research language. So we hope that the evening will be of interest to a wide audience.

“Everyone is welcome to come along – either just to listen, to ask questions or to get involved in the discussion. We hope that the themes we touch on 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.”

The event will begin at 6pm on Monday, October 7th and will take place in the Hannah Maclure Centre on Bell Street in Dundee, ending at 9pm. Refreshments will be provided.

Although the event is free, please contact to reserve a place.

‘Trans-formations – dialogues between therapy and art’ runs until Friday October 25th.


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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