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Dr Val Huet, Dr Neil Springham, Ioanna Xenophontes, Nicci Mills & Alex McDonald at Attachment & the Arts (2018): Power dynamics and boundary violation

01 June 2018

Dr Val Huet & Dr Neil Springham present a grounded theory study on power dynamics and boundary violation in art therapy followed by views and responses from two service users, Ioanna Xenophontes & Nicci Mills...

Goren (2017) highlighted that since its very beginnings, professional boundaries violation, and specifically sexual boundary violation (SBV) has been an often unacknowledged source of unease and confusion in psychotherapy and counselling. 

HCPC data reveals that arts therapists are no more immune this phenomenon than their verbally based colleagues. Some have argued that any attempt to identify the psychoactive elements of a psychological therapy must include an understanding of such harms because they are effectively two sides of the same coin. 

The study aims to add to the understanding of the psychoactive elements in art therapy using 20 years worth of HCPC data as the starting point for a grounded theory. 

The study also aims to understand what elements of the therapeutic relationship and which uses of the art may also become unwitting contributors in this process. The findings have implications for research, training, supervision and ethical practice. 

Importantly, the study highlights the value of statutory regulation in ensuring that a practice using the powerful medium of art with vulnerable clients should be as safe as possible. 

Two service users, Ioanna Xenophontes & Nicci Mills have been co-researching with art therapist, Alex McDonald in order to present service user views and responses to the study. 

Ioanna and Nicci, are both lived experience practitioners within the NHS and members of ResearchNet, a service users’ consultation and research network. As key contributors to the study they will share their responses to the findings and formulate some questions and topics for delegates to discuss. 


The BAAT series of ‘Attachment and the Arts’ conferences aims to explore art therapy through the lens of attachment theory and related research. Being close to others and having trusting relationships is at the heart of being human. The breaking of these affectional bonds can have cruel and catastrophic effects on any of us.

Attachment theories highlight that epistemic trust plays a key role in many of the experiences currently diagnosed as mental illness and so can offer a guide for treatment. The Attachment and the Arts conferences will be of value to anyone wishing to strengthen the effectiveness of art therapy through such research. The Attachment and the Arts conferences will be of value to anyone wishing to strengthen the effectiveness of art therapy through such research.

This 9th ‘Attachment and the Arts’ conference focuses on research developments in understanding how relational power operates in mental health difficulties and how that same relational power may determine whether psychological therapy may help or harm those who seek help from its services. 

The 2018 Attachment & the Arts conference will be held on Friday 5th October at Regent’s University, Regent’s Park, London.

For more information and conference booking please click here

You can see highlights from previous Attachment & the Arts conferences on Facebook here and on Twitter here

You can also follow the conference live on 5th October 2018 on Twitter using #AttachmentArts