Sara Powell

Sara Powell is the founder of ATIC Psychological and Counselling Centre. 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 and is a member of the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT). Sara has over 11 years clinical experience and has provided psychotherapy to children, adolescents, adults, families, and has facilitated a variety of groups and programs. Sara is passionate in supporting women and children and has worked extensively with people of determination and who are non-verbal. Sara is a mother to a toddler and during her pregnancy observed a need for perinatal and postnatal mental health as well as an overall lack of early intervention services available for below 6 years primarily, as such Sara spearheaded the recent opening of ATIC’s Early Intervention and Child Development branch of services. Sara has overseen numerous projects consulting Government agencies in Singapore and UAE (in forensic settings, with addiction as well as in medical settings, and with vulnerable children and young people). Sara is a published author and has presented at many conferences regionally and internationally.

Resiliency, Spirituality & Art Therapy


Resilience is the capacity to recover from adversity (Levine, 2022). It refers to how individuals can use their internal resources and strength to cope with challenges and maintain functioning and even positive growth, in difficult circumstances. Researchers have found it difficult to discern what creates resilience as adverse childhood experiences do not always result in psychopathology, nor does it relate to any specific biological makeup; resilience is a complex and multifactored phenomenon (Levine, 2022). Studies have found that resilience relates to temperament, health, intelligence, purpose, and connection, among others. Spirituality has been identified as a protective and resilience-related resource (Curry, 2009; Fallot, 2007; Gonçalves et al., 2015; Koenig et al., 2012; Park, 2012). Mental health studies have shown that spirituality protects against stress, emotional and physiological strain providing direction (Park, 2012). It is also essential in constructing meaning, coping with stress, nurturing forgiveness, and even physical health (Curry, 2009).

Spirituality is one of the pillars of the intervention model developed in art psychotherapy for the Arabian Gulf (Powell et al., 2021); this presentation continues to explore this model, focusing on the relationship between resilience, spirituality, and art psychotherapy. The model uses a phenomenological perspective to define spirituality and distinguish it from religion. Spirituality involves experiences that modify the standard mode of operation from a self, identity, and brain perspective; influence lifestyle, behavior, thought, and personality; and generate a maintained change in how the person understands the other, and the self and the universe (MacDonald et al., 2015). This definition of spirituality addresses the person, the community, the evolution of the self and facilitates a cross-cultural study of spirituality.

There is a time-honored relationship between creativity, expressive arts, spirituality, and in facing adversity (Feen-Calllgan, 1995), studies however are overall limited (Bella & Serlin, 2013). Throughout time, healing and the arts have been connected; shamans incorporated ritual, dancing, drumming, symbols, and imagery to cure illnesses. Art psychotherapy creates an experience of the present that can reveal a spiritual dimension (Farrelly-Hansen, 2001). The language of art fosters an awareness of the self and its possibility of transcendence. A process-based approach invites the whole person to the full expression of human experience and provides immediate and direct access to the present moment. In art psychotherapy, experience can be reframed, and new knowledge can reveal the depth of human potential, resiliency, and spiritual connection.

Keywords: resilience; art therapy; culture; Arabian Gulf; spirituality

Area of Psychology: art therapy, psychotherapy


Bella, K. A., & Serlin, I. A. (2013). Arts therapies. In H. L. Friedman & G. Hartelius (Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of transpersonal psychology (pp. 529–543). Wiley & Sons.

Curry, J. R. (2009). Examining client spiritual history and the construction of meaning: The use of spiritual timelines in counseling. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 4(2), 113–123.

Fallot, R. D. (2007). Spirituality and religion in recovery: Some current issues. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 30(4), 261–270.

Farrelly-Hansen, M. (2001). Spirituality and art therapy: Living the connection. Jessica Kingsley.

Feen-Calllgan, H. (1995). The use of art therapy in treatment programs to promote spiritual recovery from addiction. Art Therapy, 12(1), 46–50.

Gonçalves, J. P. B., Lucchetti, G., Menezes, P. R., & Vallada, H. (2015). Religious and spiritual interventions in mental health care: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Psychological Medicine, 45(14), 2937–2949.

Koenig H. G., King, D., & Carson, V. B. (2012). Definitions. In H. G. Koenig, D. King, & V. B. Carson (Eds.), Handbook of Religion and Health (pp. 37–38). Oxford University Press.

Levine, S. (2022). Psychological and social aspects of resilience: a synthesis of risks and resources. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience.

MacDonald, D. A., Friedman, H. L., Brewczynski, J., Holland, D., Salagame, K. K. K., Mohan, K. K., ... & Cheong, H. W. (2015). Spirituality as a scientific construct: Testing its universality across cultures and languages. PLoS One, 10(3), e0117701.

Park, C. L. (2012). Meaning, spirituality, and growth: Protective and resilience factors in health and illness. In A. Baum, T. A. Revenson, & J. Singer (Eds.), Handbook of health psychology (pp. 405–429). Psychology Press.

Powell, S., Gómez Carlier, N, & El-Halawani, M. (2021). Developing art therapy in the Arabian gulf: prioritizing relational models. In V. Huet, & L. Kapitan, (Eds.). (2021). International Advances in Art Therapy Research and Practice: The Emerging Picture (pp. 168–176). Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Sara Powell