'Flourishing Lives: Reflective Practice Groups' Report

Our new report outlines the benefits of Reflective Practice support for artists and arts organisations working in mental health and wellbeing settings.

The report by Nicola Naismith follows a 6 month research project, funded by The Baring Foundation, which provided free Reflective Practice Group support sessions for 12 arts organisations and 71 artists working in mental health contexts. 

This report will be useful to anyone interested in accessing or providing opportunities for reflection within the participatory arts sector: creative practitioners, commissioners and funders of participatory arts, and creative, operational and leadership teams within organisations. 

  • The research shares evidence-based foundations of what Reflective Practice can do, and its interconnected benefits including: providing space for deep thinking, preventing stagnation, promoting self-awareness and providing a means for constructing professional knowledge.
  • The key condition for effective Reflective Practice Groups (RPGs), and on which all else builds, is that of a safe space in which to reflect – which is established by working with highly skilled and experienced facilitators
  • Reflective Practice Group participants felt a positive impact in a number of interlinked ways: a strong sense of commonality developed through opportunities to engage with in-depth exploration and connection with colleagues, supporting established teams and those who had newly joined organisations.
  • The opportunity to honestly share work-based experiences – both celebratory and challenging – within a non-judgemental and safe space increased levels of confidence.
  • A further impact marker of this initiative is the desire to remain engaged with the work itself – regular reflection – which the majority indicated they wanted to do.
  • Organisations were also positive about the initiative, with all survey respondents agreeing RPGs offer a safe space in which to share experiences.

Accessing arts funding has always been challenging, and is even more so given recent events. However it is important to remember the foundations of arts and health, and
participatory arts provision – freelance creative practitioners and organisational teams.
Support for their wellbeing is paramount, both in their own terms and in relation to
working with clients. To support the sector and the individuals who work within it, it is

  • Allocating further financial resources for Reflective Practice Groups so a greater
    number of people have access. This could be via fundraising, embedding the cost
    in grant applications for arts and health projects, or through the provision of
    dedicated funds to a suitably experienced external provider.
  • Prioritising the conditions for good attendance: the importance of ‘free at the point
    of access’ must be maintained and complemented with paid time to participate,
    either via organisations or through the provision of bursary funding or similar to
    ensure equity of access.
  • Supporting the connections between Reflective Practice Group participants – on
    completion of the RPG – via the formulation of a participant-led, organisationally-
    supported alumni for ongoing engagement with the work and each other.

We believe that this report offers a compelling evidence base for the benefits of Reflective Practice support for artists and arts practitioners working in mental health settings, and highlights the vital role of practitioner care in mitigating against burn-out and staff turnover, and creating a more robust provision for people accessing arts and wellbeing services.

We hope that this report can contribute towards wider advocacy for the continuing development, funding and growth of practitioner support across the arts and wellbeing sector.

We are immensely grateful to The Baring Foundation for supporting this work, and to Nicola Naismith for her invaluable help and support in designing and implementing this evaluation.

We are also hugely grateful to the therapists, clinical supervisor, creative practitioners, and participant arts organisations for all of their help and support during the course of this project – and for all of the incredible work that they do.    

About our Reflective Practice Services

Flourishing Lives offer group and one-to-one reflective practice sessions, led by trained counsellors, providing arts and wellbeing practitioners with a vital structure for emotional support and in-depth reflection on working practice.

We offer a range of low-cost sessions, including:

  • open access group sessions for individual and freelance artists and arts practitioners
  • bespoke group sessions for teams and organisations
  • and one-to-one sessions for individual practitioners and facilitators working in arts and wellbeing settings.

Please do contact david@flourishinglives.org if you would like to book group or one-to-one sessions for your team, or individuals working with your organisation.

The dates for our Autumn/Winter open access sessions will be publicised here soon.