Training day event

16 January 2021

This weekend we had such an inspiring day with a wonderful group of therapists, counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists, who together explored the creative possibilities for online delivery of the Arts for the Blues model. 

We are so thankful to connect with everyone. 

Here are some of the creative outputs from the day! 

Who are you? How do you feel right now? Introducing ourselves using a whiteboard (beginning of workshop)


How do you feel now? (closing of workshop)



A poem by Scott Thurston, compiled from chat contributions during the Arts for the Blues training event

I. Beginnings


Stretched out we float, flow expansively:

A blooming ripple, roots open, spinning

Round and spiralling here, a dizzy star.


The whole centre is full. Slowly it’s pulled,

Swirling, bubbling, here! Wide dozzy dizzy

Butterflies landed, moulding fire symbolism.


We are rotating, within without, fluid

Drifting: absorbing slow, open sprinkles.

Let’s go changemakers!


We are fragments in a bubbling bucket:

warm, hopeful, bright, emerging smiles

absorbed in playful flourish.


II. Closings


My confidence grew as the day progressed.

Just what I would hope would happen over

the course of creativity and connection.


All that you need you have already, it might just be

in disguise. Bring the creative and the therapeutic

closer together, outside the box.


Fun and connection, re-resource and re-connect

with how I can use our creative skills on the line.

A community is taking shape, fertile.

Nourished and resourced by deeper understanding

of process and components, how to integrate into

who I am.



Real connection

to the value of



Creating a group ‘story’, one example of a creative activity with therapeutic underpinning that could be delivered online.  Here we used a whiteboard on Zoom to create an island, exploring opportunities, challenges and relationships using imagery, symbolism and metaphor (key ingredient:processing at a deeper level).

Supritha Aithal

We ended with a wonderful group movement and sound sequence led by Supritha, a dance movement therapist and Bharatanatyam dancer, who made four distinct sounds which we each connected to an individual movement. From these four movements we created our own sequence that we played with through sound and shared as a group, connecting us to each other through sound and movement. What a fabulous way to end the day!

Release of a new Arts for the Blues publication!

The Arts for the Blues team are delighted to announce their third publication which presents the twelve session creative psychotherapy model for depression

This article details the approach taken by the team to inform the model and presents the eight key ingredients that underpin the therapy. 

Omylinska-Thurston, J., Karkou, V., Parsons, A.S., Nair, K., Haslam, S., Dubrow-Marshall,  L., Starkey, J., Thurston, S., Dudley-Swarbrick, I. and Sharma, S (2020). Arts for the Blues: the development of a new evidence-based creative group psychotherapy for depression. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research


Depression affects many adults in the UK, often resulting in referral to primary care mental health services (e.g. improving access to psychological therapies, IAPT). CBT is the main modality for depression within IAPT, with other approaches offered in a limited capacity. Arts psychotherapies are rarely provided despite their attractiveness to clients. However, the recent dropout rate of 64% within IAPT suggests that clients’ needs are not being fully met. Therefore, in order to expand clients’ choice we developed a new creative psychological therapy integrating evidence‐based approaches with arts psychotherapies.


A three‐level approach was used: (a) thematic synthesis of client‐identified helpful factors in evidence‐based approaches for depression and in arts psychotherapies; (b) studio practice exploring Cochrane Review findings on arts psychotherapies for depression; (c) pilot workshops for clients with depression and therapists.

Findings and Discussion

Eight key ingredients for positive therapy outcomes were identified: encouraging active engagement, learning skills, developing relationships, expressing emotions, processing at a deeper level, gaining understanding, experimenting with different ways of being and integrating useful material. These ingredients were brought together as Arts for the Blues for clients with depression: a 12‐session evidence‐based pluralistic group psychotherapy integrating creative methods as well as talking therapy.


The evidence‐based foundation, creative content and pluralistic nature of this new approach aligned with eight client‐identified key ingredients for positive therapy outcomes make it a promising therapy option that can be adapted to individual therapy. Implications include consideration for NICE approval as an additional therapy for depression.

Release of manuals and findings: therapeutic dance interventions for breast cancer

Dancing with Health is multi-site pilot study that aimed to evaluate a sixteen week dance programme for women in recovery from breast cancer across five European countries. Edge Hill University led the UK pilot which was delivered over 2019-2020.

The study has now released two manuals on it’s website, which cover the rationale, design, delivery protocols and findings of the programme. The website also has training videos for practitioners who are interested in delivering the sessions themselves. This study will be of interest to dance and dance movement therapy practitioners as well as health professionals interested in the physical and psychological aspects of breast cancer recovery.

A publication is currently underway, which will further explore the statistical findings from the primary outcome data in relation to anthropometric and fitness measures next to cancer related quality of life.

This project was funded by the Erasmus+Sport programme of the European Union

E-Arts for Covid Blues: online workshop

ESRC Festival of Social Science

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Covid-19 and lockdown have affected people psychologically in different ways such as struggling with stress, anxiety, depression and loss.

In response, the Arts for the Blues team are offering a free online creative psychological therapeutic session for working with these problems, as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. We will use simple creative tools such as movement, drawing or writing as well as talking and the session will involve small and large group work. The workshop will last 90 minutes (10:00-11.30) followed by a 30 min break and then we are reconvening for a one hour group discussion (12:00-13:00). Private space, internet connection and basic art materials are essential. No previous artistic experience is required.

The workshop is intended to be beneficial for participants and could be mildly therapeutic, although it is not offered as therapy. It will also give space to reflect. You will asked to carefully check your eligibility against the inclusion/exclusion criteria before you attend. 

As the sessions are part of the larger research study called Arts for the Blues, we intend to gather data from this event to further the study. This will involve the completion of some online questionnaires. Full information will be provided nearer the time and you will be asked for your consent to this.

To book please follow the link here booking information link

Engage: Performance and the Maternal

We invite you to join ENGAGE….conversations conceived across performance studies and the maternal. A series of online forums which consider, through different artistic and academic perspectives, how maternal performance helps us to understand the lived condition of motherhood. Each forum responds to a themed-provocation (question) and features a panel of guest speakers plus a Q & A.

Emma Perris and Prof Vicky Karkou from Edge Hill University will be amongst several presenters on the forum titled Health, Policy and Impact – Maternal Performance Matters on 3rd November. This session will ask ‘What are the pressing questions for maternal health and policy? How might performance help us to explore those questions?’ Emma and Vicky will present their adapted version of a new creative psychotherapy, Arts for the Blues for postnatal depression as part of Emma’s PhD study. Other Speakers: Prue ThimblebyHelena Walsh,  Michelle Hartney, Leah Salter

Book this free online event by clicking below

Performance and the Maternal is an 18 month research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council delivered by Dr Emily Underwood-Lee and Georgina Biggs at the University of South Wales(Cardiff) and Dr Lena Simic at Edge Hill University (Ormskirk).

Arts and Therapy in the Time of the Pandemic

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From Thursday 18th June 2020

In collaboration with the International Arts Therapies Doctoral Alliance led by New York University, a series of presentations, panel discussions and workshops will be recorded and showcased online, exploring the contribution of the arts and arts psychotherapies to health and wellbeing during the 2020 pandemic .

Guest speakers and panelists will present current initiatives and research on the physiological and psychological benefits of the arts. In particular discussions will focus on the contributions that the arts therapies can make to tackle isolation, loneliness, offer opportunities for resilience and support for the wellbeing of the general public, health and social care staff and patients. Ways in which the arts therapies can act as psychological interventions for the prevention and treatment of depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder will also be explored, highlighting the value of this field at times of crisis. 

Videos will also be posted via twitter with the hashtag #artstherapiescovid19 we would like to encourage everyone to use this tag to provide your thoughts and any creative responses to the resources and together create a forum where we can meet and share.

Keynote presentation by Christopher Bailey, Arts & Health Lead at the World Health Organisation ‘Composed at Present, Composing the Future:  Arts and Healing in the COVID world. This is followed by a Panel Discussion exploring the role of arts and arts therapies in the context of the pandemic, with the four featured arts therapists below (Dr Nisha Sajnani, Prof Felicity Baker, Prof Vicky Karkou and Dr Azizah Abdullah).

Short 1min 30 taster

Full length presentation and panel discussion 1hr4min

A series of presentations from prominent international arts therapists talking about how their discipline and research activities can contribute to health and wellbeing during the times of the pandemic.

Vicky Karkou staff photo

Workshops and reflections of internationally recognised practitioners in dance movement psychotherapy, art psychotherapy, music therapy and drama therapy.

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Creative Resilience and going OFFLine during Lockdown

As part of Voluntary Arts’ Creative Network, I was recently invited to talk with Nick Ewbank, Chair of ISR’s External Advisory Group, about everyday creativity in the context of the response to COVID-19. In particular, we were looking at David Gauntlett’s definition and how he emphasises the idea of ‘making is connecting’, and advocates the importance of the internet for creative people. 

Nick subsequently published his own compelling, and more nuanced, understanding of everyday creativity and its potentially vital role in helping to heal the damage done by the lockdown, in an article last week for Arts Professional. In calling for a paradigm shift, Nick argues that the ‘initial goal should be to reach a shared, science-based understanding of the central importance of everyday creativity in our lives’. 

Certainly, the cultural sector has done much to try to support people through what has been a distressing period, if we consider the ways in which theatres, museums, dance companies and musicians inter alia have made their work available for free online. However, the way people have applied themselves to creative challenges at home, supported by various initiatives such as Voluntary Arts’ Get Creative at Home or Fun Palace’s Tiny Revolutions of Connection, is potentially more significant, most especially because not everyone has access to the internet or smart technology. If nothing else, what the pandemic has laid bare is the stark digital divide that pertains in the UK; wherein large swathes of the population remain isolated, unable to benefit from these online cultural resources and opportunities.

In my own recent article with Tristi Brownett, we argued that community cultural festivals can be important generators of wellbeing through their ‘collective effervescence’. Even if physicaldistancing means festival spaces are not open to us at the moment, community initiatives are heartwarmingly proving that people are not socially distanced. They remain collectively effervescent, and creative in their resilience. The Leigh Film Society volunteers, for example, have been busy delivering orange bags containing DVDs to families who do not have access to online streaming services. Meanwhile, in Leeds, Mini Playbox is a community partnership project between artists distributing boxes of creativity, activities and fun during lockdown. The emphasis here is on OFFline activities for families and individuals within communities, and this is happening within communities all over the UK.

The value of everyday creativity, both online and off, should be at the heart of a resilient, sustainable, caring society that supports, protects and nurtures the health and wellbeing of all its citizens.

Prof Owen Evans is a Professor of Film in the Department of Media at Edge Hill University and a member of the Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing

Edge Hill highlights Wellbeing for All during Mental Health Awareness Week

During this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week Edge Hill is highlighting the huge range of support their wellbeing teams have put together for students and staff.

As everyone adjusts to life in lockdown the University is reminding everyone that they are part of the Edge Hill community and have the support of hundreds of classmates and colleagues. 

To help students and staff stay aware of both their own mental health and the mental health of others Edge Hill set up an online Wellbeing Hub. The hub gives access to a wide range of resources that offer advice on how to cope during lockdown and how to help others who might be struggling. 

Amanda Herrity, Staff Wellbeing, Development and Engagement Lead at Edge Hill University said:

“Before this pandemic happened, we had established a strategic framework, Wellbeing for All, which is made up of key partners from both Human Resources and Student Services.

“Having this group has enabled us to get our wellbeing support in place quickly for both our students and staff. Early on in the pandemic we had launched a wellbeing hub which contains information on how to support yourself and others, which is based on the NHS five ways to wellbeing; take notice, keep learning, connect, give and be active.”

As well as the hub Edge Hill is encouraging staff to take part in the Pulse Survey which launched today (18th May). The aim is to gain an insight into how the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown are impacting on people’s activity, work and health.  

The logo for the staff pulse survey.

The University has also offered training to all staff so that they feel confident in supporting others, talking to students and knowing how and when to refer them for more support. Staff can access the training here –

However, it is also important to recognise everyone is experiencing lockdown differently and some people might be struggling with their own mental health. We asked Dan Cross, the Director of bereavement charity Strong Men, how he is coping in lockdown and what advice he would give to our students and staff. Dan has previously visited Edge Hill to share his powerful story of coping with the loss of his wife.

Dan Cross said:

“If you are struggling a little bit too much don’t be afraid to ask for support. Whether you’re staff or a student support is available to you, just ask for it if you need it. Above all stay positive, keep your chin up, stay in touch with friends and family and we’ll get through this together.”

You can watch Dan’s lovely message on how to stay resilient in full here

This week please check out the resources that have been made available for students, staff and the general public:

  • Edge Hill has launched a dedicated Wellbeing Support Service that our staff and frontline students can access. This service will connect staff with qualified counsellors, for issues centred around the current covid-19 pandemic.  The help on offer can focus on ways of finding solutions to problems, ways of coping or just a safe place to talk.
  • Edge Hill has opened up the “Big White Wall” to all staff and students which provides access to a 24/7 online community and professional support from trained counsellors.
  • The Wellbeing and Counselling Team is continuing to offer telephone appointments. These can be booked either by emailing [email protected] or by following the link
  • Edge Hill have partnered with mental fitness app Fika during this COVID-19 period, enabling all students to access Fika’s COVID-19 package for free
  • The University have put together a range of COVID-19 specific online materials which can be accessed via the link
  • The Campus Life team have created a full programme of online events to help students feel part of the Edge Hill community, wherever they are in the world. Activities include Netflix watch parties, weekly competitions and live chat sessions.

It is hoped that this package of support will help students and staff stay mentally strong during lockdown so that when the pandemic is over we are all ready to return to campus happy and ready to learn.

If you’re a student and need advice and support for your wellbeing, email [email protected].

If you’re a member of staff, the wellbeing and development team are available by email [email protected] to provide support.

The Arts and COVID-19: A Time of Danger and Opportunity?

In this blog piece for the Institute of Social Responsibility, Professor Vicky Karkou prompts us to think about the revitalising and resourcing opportunities that the arts can offer us in this time of danger.

Darren Henley (2020), the CEO of the Arts Council, refers to the pandemic as: “the most serious challenge to (the) existence” (p.1) of the arts industry since the second world war”.

With the closure of all cinemas, theatres, live music venues, studios and dancing spaces, the arts industry in the UK faces a very uncertain future. So much so that Arts Council England have now redirected all its grant funds to an Emergency Response Fund for individuals and organisations who will be most at risk from the fall-out from the pandemic.

While this is happening, people in lockdown are faced with the need to connect through the arts in ways that have not been present before. From online dance, music and theatre performances (e.g. English National Ballet, Albert Royal Hall and Hampstead Theatre) to interactive sessions of how to draw and paint, how to dance or how to write poetry (see Royal Academy, Dancing Alone Together, Poetry Society); the internet is filling with options of things to ‘attend to’ or to ‘participate with’ whilst at home.

In addition to online options, dancing in the streets and in court yards, playing music in front of one’s house or singing from one’s window are new ways of connecting through the arts that are surfacing because of the pandemic; not only in the UK but all around the world.

At EHU’s Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing we are undertaking research projects on the contribution of the arts to one’s wellbeing.  For example, through the ‘Arts for the Blues’ project (Karkou et al in preparation; Omylinska-Thurston et al 2019; Parsons et al 2019; Haslam et al 2019) we have found therapeutic benefits in the use of creativity and the arts for those struggling with loneliness and depression. In the current lockdown situation, this is relevant to all of us.

Remaining active through arts-making, learning new skills, or engaging in mindful (or not) indoors movement, all have the potential to vitalise us.  Finding opportunities to express feelings that are difficult to talk about through singing, drawing or moving in the presence of or with our loved ones over the phone, zoom or Skype, may be ways of strengthening and resourcing ourselves.

It may also be the time to stop, think, reflect and re-focus, making plans for new ways of being that are more relational and certainly more meaningful and rewarding.   It is possible, that with appropriately co-ordinated activities that combine research, public and personal initiatives, the arts can make contributions that offer re-vitalising experiences for all of us.  So let’s stay in – and dance!

 Professor Vicky Karkou is a Professor of Arts & Wellbeing at Edge Hill University and Director of the Research Centre. For more information about Vicky and her publications please visit