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Phenomenology and the Arts

November 2, 2019 @ 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm

£20.00 – £25.00

“The concept of dynamic vitality forms brings together four converging lines of thought, namely intersubjectivity, cross- and meta-modality, the dynamic features of experience, and a phenomenological focus on subjectivity. (44) The time-based arts are largely about the dynamics of experiences. Vitality forms are the working experiential units. (75)”

Daniel Stern 2010 – Forms of Vitality: Exploring Dynamic Experience in Psychology, the Arts, Psychotherapy, and Development

Phenomenology has a long tradition of contributing some of the most illuminating, multidimensional and practical accounts of art and the creative process. The British Psychological Society considers the existential-phenomenological paradigm as a meta-model and relational framework of critical importance to contemporary psychology and to the scientist-practitioner model.

Phenomenological research methodologies have long been key to performing arts research, but despite the current emphasis in the field on phenomenologically-based approaches to health and wellbeing – such as flow and mindfulness as well as third-waves cognitive behavioural approaches – to date the contribution of phenomenological psychology and psychotherapy to performing arts medicine has been neglected.

While the health benefits of art are increasingly acknowledged, research continues to indicate that there is a high proportion of mental health disturbance and suicide rates in performing artists (Mental Health and Wellbeing Services for Performing Artists: Guidance for the Performing Arts Sector Consultation Paper, BAPAM 2019).This is reflected in the problems that are regularly seen at the specialist clinics offered by the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), a health charity for performing artists.

These issues are very relevant to a phenomenologically-focussed exploration. Phenomenology provides a systematic framework grounded upon embodiment and intersubjectivity which is highly sensitive and responsive to complexities, subtleties, shifts and ambiguities; hence it is particularly effective for the type of short-term therapeutic work supported by industry organisations such as the Royal Society of Musicians and Help Musicians UK.

This CPD event will consider how a phenomenological emphasis on lived experience may strengthen ethical practice and challenge stigma and the pathologisation of artists.

We will address how phenomenology can illuminate new and fruitful ways of thinking about and working with some of the issues that BAPAM strives to ameliorate. We will highlight four main principles of phenomenological practice:

  1. the view of art as expansion – rather than escape, defence or sublimation;
  2. the therapeutic process as immersion in – rather than elimination of – presenting problems;
  3. the therapeutic objective as symptom resolution – rather than removal;
  4. the pivotal focus on the present as the interpreter of the past and indicator towards future possibilities.

SEA and BAPAM share a common professional focus on how psychology and psychotherapy may best assist and sustain the arts, and reciprocally how the arts can enrich and humanise our fields and make us more receptive practitioners.


2.00 Welcome and introduction

2.15 Dan Hayhurst, BAPAM Senior Manager: Caring for performers’ health

2.45 Monia Brizzi, Existential Counselling Psychologist: A phenomenological approach to working with performing artists

3.15 Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, Emeritus Professor of Music, King’s College London: A phenomenological approach to musical experience and belief

3.45 Mandy Burvill, Classical Musician, in conversation with Monia Brizzi and Daniel Leech-Wilkinson

4.15 Stephen Johnson, Composer, Writer and Broadcaster: How Shostakovich changed my mind

4.45 Miranda Jackson, Existential Psychotherapist: Empathic understanding of the musician’s way of being: why we need to understand what it means to be a musician to be effective therapists.

5.15 Open discussion and refreshments.




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November 2, 2019
2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
£20.00 – £25.00
Event Category:


King’s College London
Department of Music, Room SWB21 Strand Campus
London, WC2R 2LS United Kingdom
View Venue Website


Monia Brizzi