top of page

Sara Powell

Sara Powell

Sara Powell, MA, is the Founder of ATIC Psychological Counseling Center. She is from the UK, a Third Culture Kid, growing up in the Gulf. She is an Art Psychotherapist and is registered with the Health Care Profession Council (HCPC) UK. She is a Registered Psychotherapist (MBACP) with the Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) UK, and a member of the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT). Sara has over 10 years of clinical experience and has provided psychotherapy to children, adolescents, adults, families, and facilitated a variety of groups and programs. Sara is passionate about supporting women, specializing in child- and adolescent-related disorders, and has worked extensively with people of determination and those who are non-verbal. Sara is a mother to three young children and during her pregnancy, she observed a need for perinatal and postnatal mental health as well as an overall lack of early intervention available for children 6 years and below. This led Sara to the introduction of ATIC’s Early Intervention and Child Development services. Sara has overseen numerous projects consulting Government agencies in Singapore and UAE (in forensic and medical settings, with addiction, and with vulnerable children and young people). Sara is a published author and has presented at many national, regional and international conferences.

Technology & Art Psychotherapy: The pros and cons

Research in art psychotherapy has demonstrated that it maintains its effectiveness when it is moved to the digital space (Levy et al., 2018; Spooner et al., 2019; Zubala et al., 2021). However, the impact of culture has yet to be considered, and this paper explores how art psychotherapy translates to online, telehealth, and digital services in the Arabian Gulf. This paper will integrate the findings previously published about how COVID transformed art psychotherapy (Gomez-Carlier et al., 2020; Dixon et al., 2022), a report regarding moving art psychotherapy groups for children in the Autism Spectrum to telehealth (Gómez-Carlier & Powell, 2022), developing online services with museums in Qatar (manuscript in preparation), with recent findings in our practice regarding working in trauma and addressing mental health stigma.
As previously reported, online art psychotherapy reduces stigma (Wong et al., 2018) and enhances access. Access is particularly relevant since so few art therapists are practicing in the region. The digital space also shifts the power dynamics, affects engagement, and problem-solving technological problems can cultivate confidence and self-esteem when managed consciously (Collie & Čubranić, 1999).
However, it is also important to identify the cases where there might be better choices than the online environment, and the use of technology might not be beneficial. Art psychotherapists have often identified that the capacity to observe the process and the image created are particularly hindered in the digital space (Levy et al., 2018). In cases of heightened risk, interrupting online services was often necessary. Moreover, integrating embodied expression and non-verbal communication (not seeing the whole body, decreased eye contact, and not co-regulating nervous systems) needed constant attention. In this region, it also becomes essential to address privacy and confidentiality issues, as collective cultures have different ways of perceiving the therapeutic relationship (Al-Krenawi & Graham, 2000; Pope-Davis et al., 2001).
We conclude that creativity plays an important role in how art psychotherapy adapts to the digital age. We hypothesize that when creativity is mindfully integrated, we can observe increased empowerment, engagement, and appreciation for the unique benefits of art psychotherapy. The presentation will also discuss how new technologies, including virtual reality (Kaimal et al., 2020) and working with social robots (Partridge et al., 2022), has been explored in the field of art psychotherapy.
Al-Krenawi, A., & Graham, J. R. (2000). Culturally sensitive social work practice with Arab clients in mental health settings. Health and Social Work, 25(1), 9–22.
Collie, K., & Čubranić, D. (1999). An art therapy solution to a telehealth problem. Art Therapy, 16(4), 186–193.
Dixon, M., Gómez-Carlier, N., Powell, S., El-Halawani, M., & Weber, A. S. (2022). Art Therapy Service Provision during the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). QScience Connect, 2022(3-Medical Humanities in the Middle East Conference), 32.
Gómez-Carlier, N., Powell, S., El-Halawani, M., Dixon, M., & Weber, A. (2020). COVID-19 transforms art therapy services in the Arabian Gulf. International Journal of Art Therapy, 25(4), 202–210.
Gómez-Carlier, N., & Powell, S. (2022). Brief Report: An Art Therapy Pilot Dyadic (parent/caregiver and child) Telehealth for Children Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. QScience Connect, 2022(3), 33.
Kaimal, G., Carroll-Haskins, K., Berberian, M., Dougherty, A., Carlton, N., & Ramakrishnan, A. (2020). Virtual reality in art therapy: a pilot qualitative study of the novel medium and implications for practice. Art Therapy, 37(1), 16–24.
(Reference list is incomplete)

bottom of page