Inspiration comes from everywhere!

Im inspired to share with you the fact that i feel inspired!  I have just had a wonderful Skype discussion with a colleague from the Flourish Foundation.   We shared our experiences - mine from 1994 when I volunteered in Romania and hers from now, working with refugees in Ritsona in Greece.  Please take a look at the website and support them as they offer all the people who find themselves as refugees in the difficult place of a camp, a space to be, to express and play and process some of the trauma they've experienced on their journeys.   

 In 1994 I was newly qualified and without work.  When my friend Cathy rang, i was more than  willing to help my friend out there already working in the orphanages.  Those of you old enough to remember will readily recall the images we were shocked by on our TV's, as the Ceausescu communist Regime fell and the curtains were pulled back on the lives people were living and the terrible neglect of the orphans leaving them severely developmental delayed.

 I went to work in a newly uncovered adult psychiatric hospital where the conditions were very similar to the orphanages.  We were there from September to December and then having returned for Xmas and fundraising, again, January to March.  In the depths of winter we walked the two miles out of town to the high-walled hospital every day with the other volunteers.  Returning mid-afternoon before it got too dark and too cold, warming up on good conversation, hot bread and local rum.  All the juxtapositions of beauty and horror that surrounded me during those months have sculpted me into the kind of therapist I am today.  

I learned how to unite the ideal frame of what Id just been taught that Art Therapy is, with the reality of the context and people I was working with in the moment.  It made me pare Art Therapy down to its essential bones and It changed me and my life from that point on.  I am forever grateful for this experience and though 24 years ago, I reflect on it often.  The learnings are deep within me and nourish my confidence and integrity as a therapist.  

I will tell you more another time.  

About being Trauma-sensitive in Art therapy

The other day I went on a course that inspired me to write!  Carolyn Spring, founder of PODS-ONLINE.ORG.UK an organisation based in Huntingdon, to support and inform about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID used to be known as multiple personality disorder), is an accomplished speaker, offering respectful context for depth of content with simplicity of presentation which I aspire to...but that's another blog.  

We were there, considering the clinical implications of working with DID.  She spoke of the impact of trauma on the body and mind, and the admirable and utter resilience of our human-ness that finds ways to cope and survive.  "Trauma by definition is unbearable and intolerable" (from another great speaker Van de Kolk in his book 'The Body Keeps The Score' 2014).  It is, a human experience that I have lived and worked with actually all my life.   I lived in a family that fostered many children from highly traumatised backgrounds.  I had parents with the same heritage.  I always gravitated toward helping the underprivileged and those without voice (animal and human) in some way or other my whole life.  I volunteered in special schools, specialist units, a Romanian Psychiatric hospital - and  I found the voice for this myself through art and connection.   

I worked in NHS Art Therapy Services with adults with the label of learning disability (LD) for almost 20 of my years, and spent time with trauma every day in a different way.  A person with a LD carries non-verbally their very first significant trauma, that of the organic brain damage and/or syndrome they're born with - as well as the impact this has/had on the emotions and relationships that then develop around them (see books by Valerie Sinason a leading psychotherapist in both fields of LD and DID).   For the people I worked with here in art therapy,  the suffering had become so intolerable, so distressing in some way or another, that they had reached our doors within NHS Community and In-Patient NHS Specialist Services.  I was happy that I worked for a Service that believed all people (including those with LD which was less popular in the 90's) could benefit from creative psychological therapies.  We offered both Music and Art Therapy that people could receive this for free on the NHS.   

I saw every day the value, benefit and success of Art Therapy.   I remember a colleague and I discussing how wonderful it would be if we had a machine that could measure what's actually going on in someones brain and body when we were working with people, to measure and prove the changes and experiences we had the privilege to witness.  Of course now we do, and the neurophysiological evidence is there to find.  It proves relationship, play, creativity, art, and boundaries matter.  

Notably myself and three colleagues undertook a then, cutting-edge, extensive research project with 3 of our clients with moderate LD using both Quantitative and Qualitative measurement tools to try to make a contribution to this lack of research.  Press the button below for our published Article from IJAT - International Journal of Art Therapy 2006)

We all of course, have our ways, defences and tools of managing our emotions and lives, including many that are on the edge of unhealthy/unhelpful, become less helpful or take us by surprise once a number of traumas have accumulated to beyond our tolerance levels,  We don't all need therapy of course, but art Therapy can help with all of these, I've seen it.  

Thankfully most of us have not suffered such a level of significant trauma that creates DID, but if you feel you or someone you know might suffer from this do go to the website and take look for help and advice.  There is also a Directory of Trauma-Sensitive Therapists that they can advise you on.  And yes, I am on there.  

Photo on 28-01-2018 at 12.06 #2.jpg


Is an online invitation for everyone to feel inspired and heard through sharing their (your) art. Please go take a look and share the links with your friends and networks!  

There is a Facebook page too at 

We need to get the word out there for this to take off and grow...I would love to see positivity and hope through individual or group artwork, posted for the world to see.  

 The World Art ~Collective Logo Image by Alison Hawtin 2017 

The World Art ~Collective Logo Image by Alison Hawtin 2017 

Who Am I and What do I update for 2018!

As I move my life around to better mix work and pleasure, my Private Practice is now based from Ulverston in Cumbria AND Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.  
Predominantly i offer internet-mediated and face-to-face CLINICAL SUPERVISION to anyone working within the helping professions across the UK or beyond.  I also can provide direct art THERAPY sessions, GROUPS and BESPOKE therapeutic Arts based TRAINING in venues around these regions.

My area of expertise for almost 20 years has been in NHS Adult Learning Disabilities and Mental Health Community and Inpatient settings, whilst Charity-based and Education-based work with children has strongly developed since going freelance in 2015.  I have supervised people from many areas of practice over the years including museums & galleries, women’s services, palliative care, adult mental health, older people’s services, adoption and looked after children’s services, education, forensics and probation.  In my “previous life” whilst seeking my art therapy career path, I explored nursing and teacher training, both of which i I continue to use in my practice in many ways.

I have tutored, presented, mentored, researched and published over the years.    

My style is person-centred, context-aware, socially-collaborative and art-central, exploring all arenas of the interaction and relationship including the psychodynamic, emotional, cognitive, physical, sensory, and spiritual.  I have acquired an array of tools in my tool-box, that I will be happy to share with you including creativity & attachment and trauma-informed practices, sensory integration, mentalisation, solution-focus, person-centred, pre-therapy and Buddhist mindfulness/meditation, to name a few.

My passion is in encouraging you to explore, define and re-define the kind of therapist you are/want to be within the contexts you find yourself, with a kind and practical emphasis to enhance resilience and reduce secondary trauma, burn-out or cynicism.  

Please do get in touch if you'd like to discuss your needs further.  

Please Go visit, like, comment and share
Facebook page Alison's Art Therapy
Twitter @artherapygroups

I look forward to working with you 😊🎨

3 reasons I am an Art Therapist

3 reasons I am an Art Therapist

I love being an art therapist, helping others find a new way to relate to themselves and others, on a  wandering journey of discovery, uncertainty and trust in what cannot always been described with words.  
You learn to listen.  To trust your gut, your instinct, your inner art-maker, your empathy, your inner seeker of balance, your humanity.  Time, and timing.  Theres a lot of similarity between making art and making relationships:  in one we can practise elements we need for the other.  

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