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The members of the Counselling and Health Communication Team have a strong commitment to providing civic engagement activities, including consultancy for individuals and professional organisations, as well as CPD for counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists, social workers and other professionals. The Team co-directs the Mental Health and the Arts interdisciplinary, cross-border initiative.

Mental Health & the Arts

An interdisciplinary, cross-border initiative


The Mental Health & the Arts initiative is founded and directed by Dr Noreen Giffney, Dr Maggie Long and Dr Jolene Mairs Dyer. Each of us has undergone practitioner training for working with people experiencing mental health difficulties: psychoanalytic psychotherapy, counselling or mental health social work respectively.

We also have a personal and professional interest in the arts and culture, and are academic lecturers and researchers in the School of Communication & Media at Ulster University.

  • Dr Noreen Giffney MIFPP, MICP, MNIIHR, MUKCP, MCPJA (Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist and Lecturer in Counselling)
  • Dr Maggie Long SFHEA, MBACP (Counsellor and Subject Lead for Counselling and Health Communication)
  • Dr Jolene Mairs Dyer FHEA (Mental Health Social Worker and Lecturer in Media Production)

What Is the Mental Health & the Arts Initiative?

Mental Health & the Arts, a new interdisciplinary, cross-border initiative on the island of Ireland, is committed to considering what can happen in the gaps, overlaps and disjunctions between different disciplines, approaches, practices and locations.

Events bring together people from the creative and performing arts and practitioners from mental health and healthcare more generally, to facilitate public conversations about psychosocial topics of interest to communities in the North and South of Ireland.The initiative explores ways to facilitate us having conversations about matters that can be difficult and might sometimes be unspeakable or unthinkable. Each event involves us partnering with an arts or community organisation and focuses on a topic relevant to both the arts and mental health in order to help open up a space for thinking and reflection.

The Long-Term Impact of Childhood Trauma on Adult Mental and Physical Health

Our first sold-out event on 'The Long-Term Impact of Childhood Trauma on Adult Mental and Physical Health' took place on Friday 12 October 2018 in the Strand Arts Centre Cinema in Belfast. The event was co-sponsored by the Centre for Media Research at Ulster University and the Belfast Film Festival.

The event featured a screening of the documentary film, Resilience (dir. James Redford 2016), after which there were a series of responses by professionals working in the fields of counselling, psychotherapy, physiotherapy, general medicine, social work, and documentary filmmaking. Speakers at the event included Dr Olive Buckley OBE, Dr Noreen Giffney, Ms Lynda Graham, Dr Maggie Long, Mr Michael McGibbon, Dr Jolene Mairs Dyer and Mr Christian van der Merwe. The event was awarded 3.5 continuing professional development (CPD) points by the Psychoanalytic Section of the Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP).

What Can We Do with Our Vulnerability? Words to Make Meaning of Life's Experiences

Our second fully-booked event on 'What Can We Do with Our Vulnerability? Words to Make Meaning of Life's Experiences' took place on Friday 25 October 2019 in the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts in Belfast. The event was co-sponsored by Counselling and Health Communication at Ulster University (@UlsterCHC) and the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry~Londonderry.

We were delighted to welcome award-winning writer and Professor Emilie Pine to discuss her bestselling book of personal essays, Notes to Self (Dublin: Tramp Press 2018; London: Penguin 2019). The event featured opening remarks by Dr Maggie Long, a reading from Notes to Self by Emilie, and a public interview with Emilie conducted by Dr Noreen Giffney and Dr Jolene Mairs Dyer. Facilitators from Verbal's Reading Rooms Project facilitated small-group discussions of selected passages from Notes to Self. Closing remarks were given my Maggie and Emilie. Participants were awarded 3 continuing professional development (CPD) points by Mental Health & the Arts initiative.

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