Practitioner Profile: Alison Hawtin


The Creative Penn

Alison Hawtin qualified as an art therapist in 1994. She has worked as an NHS art therapist in Cambridgeshire Learning Disability Partnership Teams, and is a specialist lecturer, mentor supervisor and private practitioner. She is particularly interested in the nonverbal aspects of art therapy, general arts/creativity and wellbeing, bodywork expressions and collaborative work. A big thank you to Alison for taking the time out to speak to Art Nouveau about her work and how she sees Art Therapy functioning in the future. Alison is another working practitioner that reached out to us after posting on the International Art Therapy Facebook page. Here are Alison’s insights:

Tell me a little about your career. How and why did you become involved in art therapy?

I tried nurse training, the teacher training and then did my Art and Social Context Degree where I found out about Art Therapy – Seemed like the perfect amalgam of all I had been seeking

What are your key responsibilities as an art therapist?

To evaluate, assess, plan and implement individual and group art therapy appropriate to the service in which I work.

Are there any particular mediums that you use the most, or is that entirely up to the client?

It is up to the client within reason, because I will invite certain media, retain certain media (on safety of emotionally overwhelming grounds) and direct certain media depending on what we are looking to achieve and what stage of therapy we are at.

How can art therapy improve an individual’s self esteem?

The nature of art making involves implicit decision making, a level of confidence to begin to make a mark/touch a medium, to have an observer in the therapist, to develop trust in the therapist, themselves and the media, being their own observer and artist interchangeably, problem-solving, imagination, all enhance a sense of self – therapy values and holds this self and so it grows esteem.

How do you think art therapy has helped individuals with behavioural or LD issues more specifically?

This is too vast to say – they are all the people I have worked within 18 years so… basically they are people and all people can benefit from Art Therapy. Fundamentally it is the person-centeredness in real meaning of the worlds that holds all change potential. Through this valuing of the person, the triangle of relationships in Art Therapy and the implicit mirroring and practicing of bigger emotional and life events in the small moments of the therapy and art making process, people can grow, literally, new neural pathways.

What has been your greatest success and biggest setback in your career so far?

Interesting questions. Greatest success? Knowing my work has contributed within a multi-disciplinary team to helping people who would otherwise have remained in locked/secure settings or unhappily locked inside themselves. To be heard, express themselves in a non-threatening and emotion-appropriate manner and learn to grow and learn toleration of frustration enough to survive. To evolve into happy independent lives.

Greatest setback? The changes in the organisations I work within (NHS and social services) that mean people are no longer really valued, given the tools to do their jobs really well, or kindness which seem to be a key requirement in us all.

Why is it important for the distinction between art therapy and therapeutic art making to remain clear?

It is on a spectrum from art making/education whereby taught skills and product are key, through to therapeutic artmaking where people gain implicitly from engaging in their own process during art and its healing qualities do its work, through to supported Art Therapy where the triad is key and the person needs the witnessing inherent in the therapist’s presence and their knowledge and skill in seeking/knowing the process of art making and how it is explaining/expressing where the person is at and how best to support/facilitate/accompany them on their internal journey of self-development and awareness.

There is a place for everyone and we should be referring in and out of each other’s specialism. I was a community artist before an art therapist and I know there were areas I would not go or encourage people to go because I was not skilled to deal with it with them, nor was it the purpose of the project. Art Therapy is absolutely about the process not the product. With some people, the product becomes more important and they may even choose to exhibit or go on and train, but this is person specific and therapeutically defined within the therapy.

How do you see art therapy evolving in the future?

Hmmm. I think on the one hand it is being forced to get stricter, more defined, shorter term, and to some degree, more intellectual/cognitive. I also think it is under pressure to be more nameable and to explain the inexplicable.

On the other hand, I think there will be those who will fight for the opposite of these aspects – upholding its inherent healing qualities, the need for spontaneity, person-centered decision making and design of therapy, treasuring the inexplicability.

Art Therapy rooms are few and far between nowadays – it’s all about portability, but this is a price to pay that will show up. The vulnerable and complexly damaged/traumatised need the symbolism and safety implicit in a designated creative space that borrowed rooms and offices cannot convey. It diminishes the breadth of Art Therapy provisions that can be created and offered. This is why I am leaving the big organisations as an employee. I need to be the best clinician I can be within my own parameters and not trying to be a mediocre one within theirs.


Company Profile: Therapy Focus


Therapy Focus Team / via about-us

Therapy Focus is a not-for-profit organisation based in Western Australia. It has been open since 1998 and is now Australia’s leading providers of professional therapy services. They are also WA’s largest disability service provider and they help over 2,000 adults and children with a range of learning and physical disabilities.

Their staff include health registered physiotherapists, psychologists, speech pathologists and social workers. Therapy programs are in place to help schools, families and carers help their loved ones to reach their full potential.

Here is a link to view their 2014-2017 Strategic Plan for the community:

The organisation has a Parent Reference Group that provides Therapy Focus with realistic and incredibly valuable perspectives regarding the implementation, planning and delivery of services. You can view and read about their group members contributions here:

Therapy Focus runs an annual state-wide school art activity called Help a Child Grow Art Competition. This program aims to educated children about disability and to facilitate the inclusion, understanding and acceptance of children with special needs.


The winners with their framed works / via book-launch

A book was launched last month that celebrates the contributions of winning participants and their schools. Winners receive a framed copy of their original artwork and a prize pack curated by Therapy Focus’ sponsors. You can purchase this year’s book from Therapy Focus’ online store:

For more information about this wonderful organisation, visit their website:

The Value of Art Therapy for Autism

Rolling Balls

Patience / Iris Grace

Kate Lacour is an Art Therapist based in New Orleans and is committed to following developments in the field of creative arts by and for those with Autism. Here are some of her thoughts and findings on how Art Therapy is an engaging and encouraging treatment for children with Autism.

With Autism rates on the rise in Australia, new treatments such as Art Therapy are helping children deal with the challenges they face.

Autism is a neurological condition present at birth, whose precise cause is as yet unknown. The symptoms of Autism include repetitive or compulsive behaviours, social impairment, problems with communication and trouble processing sensory information:

The most popular treatment of recent years is Behaviour Modification Therapy, which aims at shaping behaviours through a system of rewards and consequences. An alternative treatment that is gaining traction is Art Therapy.

One of the hallmarks of Autism is impaired communication. Verbal self-expression and language is often difficult. Art offers a way for people who have trouble “speaking their mind” with words to express themselves directly, without words. People with Autism are often highly visual thinkers, and many report that they “think in pictures.”

Art Therapy can also be a facilitator in forming connections with peers. Cooperation, turn-taking, respecting differences and other social skills can all be practiced in an enjoyable, natural setting. People with Autism may also struggle to comprehend other people’s perspectives; looking at a peer’s art work offers a concrete way to “see” another person’s point of view.

For more information on Autism, head to:

I give a Gonski


The Gonski Review is the most comprehensive investigations of the way our schools are funded in over 40 years.

David Gonski found that too many children were being denied the education they needed due to a lack of resources.

The Gonski Review recommended in December on 2011 that schools be funded according to the needs of their students and what was required to educate each one of them to a high standard.

Each school would get a base level of Commonwealth and state funding, plus additional money or loadings to take into account the school’s size and location and the individual needs of students.

An additional $5 billion a year is needed to ensure every school has the resources they need. The vast majority of that funding needs to go to public schools, where student need is higher.

That money would be used to improve:

  • More attention in the classroom
  • Extra Teacher’s Aids in areas such as literacy and numeracy
  • Greater support for children with disabilities or special needs
  • Additional training for educators

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 1.23.58 PM

There is currently no Gonski funding for over 100,000 children with a disability. This denies the children the ability to reach their full potential.

The Liberal Government broke its promise to give full needs-based funding for all students with a disability.

Please sign your name to the petition link below and help Gonski to spread necessary funding to all students with a disability.

I give a Gonski petition:

The #DrawDisability by Global Observatory for Inclusion contest is open!

Vote for your favourite drawings from August 3 to September 30 2015!

#DrawDisability was launched on December 3, 2014, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In 8 months, the Global Observatory for Inclusion received almost 3,000 drawings from 50 countries around the world.

250 drawings were pre-selected by a jury of experts and now the public is able to vote for their favourite.

Here at Art Nouveau, we selected 5 of our favourite artworks. It was a very hard decision and these ones were chosen based on their heartfelt messages.


Title: The Power of Learning / Author: Kim Sian / Age: 7 / Gender: Female / Country: Korea / School: Shinyongsan Elementary School / Class: 1st

This drawing illustrates a classroom scene, in which students are learning sign language. Through this drawing opportunity, Sian first asked herself “What to do to help people in need?” Which eventually led her to the question, “Why learn?” 

As reflected in the title, The Power of Learning, she attempted to express her findings that learning becomes much more powerful when we learn for others, than for self.”


Title: Give Love, Give Hope / Author” Trubador M. Wisely / Age: 11 / Gender: Male / Country: Philippines / School: Juan Sumulong / Class: VI-3

We shouldn’t judge those persons with disabilities, because we don’t have the right to do so. And even if we were given the right to do so, we shouldn’t tolerate the discrimination. The blind, autistic, etc … should be provided with the love and care they badly need. As we can see, they are special. We should be the ones who understand them. Give love, give hope …


Title: To Jump Romp or Not to Jump / Author: Melis Ucok / Age: 8 / Gender: Female / Country: Turkey / School: Ozel Dunya Koleji / Class: 2nd

The girl is jumping rope but the disabled boy not. An apple falls. A butterfly hardly gets away. Disabled people are one of us. Never cast them out. Birds chirrup. Butterflies dance but the can hear and feel cannot see.”


Title: My Love Dream / Author: 권 단 / Age: 6 / Gender: Female / Country Korea / School” Shinyongsan Elementary School / Class: 1st

I want to dream this dream. Dreaming happily playing with friends and people with disabilities. Helping with rainbow dream of living light the world.”


Title: Colours of the World / Author: Hannelle Chua / Age: 8 / Gender: Female / Country: Philippines / School: Center for Developmental Arts Manila Inc.

Helping the children see the colours of the world. Letting them have a better understanding of what is happening in their surroundings. Giving them awareness of how wonderful the world truly is.

If you wish to vote for paricipating students, follow these links to view the two age groups and their entries: //

Art Therapy helps kids with behavioural and learning problems

fingerpaint baby
Art therapy is helping children in the UK get back on track, as a new study suggests.

via Fox News

The Art Room program, which started in 2002, is aimed at children between the ages of 5-16 who have been identified as needing emotional and behavioural support by their teachers.

There are currently nine Art Room programs in UK schools. More than 10,000 children have been through the Art Program since its inception.

“It works closely with schools to support children within the school environment and help them find creative ways to bolster their self-esteem,” said Melissa Cortina, a consultant research psychologist with The Art Room.

In a study published in the journal The Arts in Psychotherapy, researchers found that children can achieve and learn through art.

The purpose and goal of the program is to help children to re-engage with their education. The Art Room works with the children on their therapy and social skills.

For the new study, Cortina and colleague Mina Fazel of Oxford University analyzed questionnaires filled out by 169 students in the program and their teachers before and after the 2012-2013 school year. Overall that year, more than 1,000 kids from 13 feeder schools attended The Art Room.

Based on teacher responses, students improved in all areas. There was a 37 percent reduction in a topic called Total Difficulties, a 41 percent reduction in emotional problems, a 15 percent reduction in conduct problems, a 33 percent reduction in hyperactivity, a 41 percent reduction in problems with classmates and a 24 percent improvement in social behavior.

On the children’s part, there was a notable drop in depression symptoms. Before the program, 16 students (22 percent) had been classified as depressed. After the program, less than 4 percent qualified as depressed.

The Art Room intervention is not something that parents can easily duplicate at home, however “it is certainly possible for parents to adopt some of the techniques used in The Art Room for home, such as creating a positive, support environment that promotes creativity,” Cortina said.

To find out more information, head to their website:


How to Define Learning Disabilities

National Centre for Learning Disabilities

Thanks to Larry B. Silver, here is an outline of terms and concepts in perspective.

Input Disabilities:

Information arrives at the brain as impulses, transmitted along neurons, primarily from our eyes – called visual input – and from our ears – called auditory input. This input process takes place in the brain. This central input process of seeing, or hearing, or perceiving one’s environment is referred to as “perception.”

Visual Perception Disabilities:

Children may have difficulty in organising the position and shape of what he or she sees. Input may be perceived with letters reversed or rotated – an e may look like a 9; and E might look like a W or a 3, or an M. This confusion of input shows up almost immediately when the child begins to read, write or to copy letters or designs.

Judging distance is another visual perceptual task which can go awry. A child may misjudge depth, bump into thinks, fall off chairs or knock their food and drink.

Auditory Perceptual Disabilities:

Children who have difficulty distinguishing subtle differences in sounds will misunderstand what someone is saying and respond incorrectly. Words that sound alike are often confused – blue and blew or ball and bell.

Some children have difficulty with auditory figure-ground and cannot process sound input as fast as expected. It is called “auditory lag.”

Integration Disabilities:

Once the information coming into the brain is registered, it has to be understood. It is all about inferring meaning from the context in which a word is used, both a general meaning and a specific meaning. For example, the dog and your dog have very different meanings. The ability to draw general applications from specific words to attach subtle shading to basic meanings of words is referred to as “abstract thinking.”

Abstraction Disabilities:

Once information is recorded in the brain and laced in the right sequence, one must be able to infer meaning. Most learning disabled children have only minor difficulties in this area. Abstraction – the ability to derive the correct general meaning from a particular word or symbol – is a very basic intellectual task.

Short-term memory is the process by which you hold on to information as long as you are concentrating on it. Long-term memory refers to the process by which you can store information that you have repeated often enough. If your child has a memory disability, it is most likely a short-term one. A short-term memory disability can occur with information learned through what one sees – visual short-term memory disability – or with information learned through what one hears – auditory short-term memory disability. Often the two are combined.

Output Disabilities:

Information comes out of the brain either by the means of works – language output – or through muscle activity, such as writing, drawing – motor output. A child or adolescent may have a language disability or motor disability.

Language Disability:

Two forms of language are used in communication, spontaneous language and demand language. Spontaneous language is used in situations where you initiate whatever is said. This situation contains the luxury of choosing the subject and taking the time to organise your thoughts.

Children with specific language disability usually have no difficulty with spontaneous language. They do, however, often have issues with demand language. A young child may initiate all kinds of conversation, but when they are put into a situation that demands a response, the child may seem confused.

Motor Disabilities:

If a child has difficulty using large muscle groups, this is called a gross motor disability. Difficulty in performing tasks that require many muscles to work together in an integrated way is a fine motor disability,

The most common form of fine motor disability shows up when the child begins to write. The problem lies in an inability to get the many muscles in the dominant hand to work together as a team. Children and adolescents with this “written language” disability have slow and poor handwriting. A typical expression of this problem is, “My hand doesn’t work as fast as my head is thinking.”

When a child has a visual perceptual problem, the brain, which has incorrectly recorded or processed information, will probably misinform the muscles during activities that require eye-hand coordination. This is referred to as a visual motor disability.

The Benefits of Art Therapy for Learning Disabled Children

Paint by Touch / Stux

Art Therapy offers the creative and resilient child an opportunity to communicate their worries, questions, and their hopes in a symbolic form. This creates a sense of confidence and accomplishment. A child’s artwork is a record of problems met and solved and a symbol of goals reached.

Creating and working with art for children means that they learn more about themselves and helps them to feel more competent. More often than not, children come to their first session expecting to “mess up.” They are taught to celebrate the diversity of their work in comparison to other children and their uniqueness. This helps to boost their self-esteem and create a more positive sense of self.

Problems in real life are often paralleled during the art marking process. Working through these issues in the context of a creative outlet means that mistakes can be salvaged and problem-solving skills can be developed. This gives children a sense of strength and pride when goals have been successfully met. The ability to control impulse and increase tolerance to frustration is the key to this therapy.

It can offer children a safe place to discuss difficult feelings through a graphic medium. It provides a vehicle for uncomfortable or disruptive emotions to be discovered and gives the child a vehicle to focus and explore this emotions through art. There is no fear of retaliation or guilt experienced by a child visualising their frustration on paper, rather than on those around them.

Art Therapy Myths

Art Nouveau

Common Misconceptions about Art Therapies:

Myth #1 – You have to be an “artist” to benefit from art therapy.

Art therapy is less about the finished product, and more focused on the creative process. Artistic capability is never judged, just like individuals are not judged during a therapy session. It is important to work on one’s relationship with art making and an art therapist will ensure that frustrations and apprehension is taken into consideration.

Myth #2 – Art therapists are not real therapists.

An art therapist is a trained psychotherapist who specialises in the use of art making and the creative process. Art therapists undergo similar training to other types of “talk therapists” but have additional training in using art within therapy.

Myth #3 – Art therapists will know all about you by interpreting the artwork.

The meaning of the artwork is derived directly from the individual, their personal associations and feelings. Art therapists are there to help the individual to achieve a greater understanding and consider multiple meaning within the artwork.

Myth #4 – Art therapy is only for children.

People of all ages, mental and physical abilities can benefit from Art Therapy. It is a practice that goes beyond rationalisations, tap into the unconscious and shed light on things an individual may not be able to express verbally. It is a way to gain greater self-awareness or relieve stress.

Myth #5 – Art Therapy is only for people who cannot communicate.

While Art Therapy is commonly used with young children or disabled adults who may have difficulty communicating in a traditional therapy environment, people of all ages can benefit from Art Therapy. Even educated adults may have trouble articulating their feelings and thoughts, and art can be an effective outlet for them.

What is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy utilising creative modalities, including visual art-making, drama, and dance/movement, within a therapeutic relationship to improve and inform physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Art Therapy has been recognised and regulated around the world by organisations such as the British Association of Art Therapists, the Health and Care Professions Council, the American Art Therapy Association, and the Professional Association for Arts Therapy in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Amy Bucciarelli, MS ATR-BC, LMHC, Board Certified Art Therapist, helped Frank
Amy Bucciarelli, MS ATR-BC, LMHC, Board Certified Art Therapist, helped Frank “Dylan” Dinkins make a painting for his parents. Bucciarelli works with pedatrics patients at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

The advantages of Art Therapy for children include:

  • Express feelings that may be difficult to verbalise
  • Explore their imagination and creativity
  • Develop healthy coping skills and focus
  • Improve self-esteem and confidence
  • Identify and clarify issues and concerns
  • Increase communication skills
  • Share in a safe and nurturing environment
  • Identify blocks to emotional expression and personal growth

Art therapies are traditionally based on psychoanalytic principles, and therapists utilise varied practice-based and evidence-based theoretical frameworks. These traditions include depth analytic, humanistic, behavioural, systemic, and integrative approaches.

Art therapy differs from traditional art-making or performance as the emphasis is placed upon the process of creating and meaning-making, rather than on the end product.