There is a growing appreciation of the positive impact artistic expression has on mental health, wellbeing and recovery; this in turn has led to an increased recognition of the relevance of arts-based practice in health and social care (Arts, Health and Wellbeing, n.d.; River et al., 2016). This paper seeks to contribute to this knowledge base by drawing on the experience of ‘survivor artists’ to provide a reflective account of the ways in which the arts, with specific reference to a survivor arts project at a UK university, can inform professional education and practice. A variety of positive benefits from the arts have been reported within health care (Goodill, 2010), community work (Newman et al., 2003) and education, with arts being recognised within these sectors as ‘techniques for practitioner development and as a means of promoting healing, personal growth, social inclusion and community action’ (Cultural Learning Alliance, 2001). Little evidence, however, was previously available to reveal such a rich variety of arts being applied within social work (Walton, 2012: 725). For this reason we intend to focus our discussion on the application of arts-based practice to social work. Walton identified two main trends she believed explained the reasons for social work lagging behind other disciplines in this area – ‘first, the identification of social work as a social-science-based profession; and second, the political prioritisation of managerial-bureaucratic processes over interactional, engaged social work’ (Walton, 2012: 726).
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