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A new international practice framework, designed by a University of Chester Professor, has been launched to help a wide range of people from managers to teachers use creative practices for wellbeing – an area of practice growing rapidly as a result of COVID-19.

The framework gives guidance as to what practitioners need to think about and have in place when using tools and techniques from the visual, literary, and performing arts to boost wellbeing in organisations.

Although there are well established international frameworks for professionals in the helping and caring professions, such as the Health Care and Professionals Council, the Art Therapy Credentials Board, and the International Federation for Biblio-Poetry Therapy, these do not reflect the diverse contexts and settings in which practitioners are using creative practices for wellbeing.

The project used a creative and collaborative process which engaged practitioners from over 50 different roles from the arts, health, business, charities and third sector organisations, and government, community writers, poets, musicians, artists, activists, policy advisors, community development professionals, counsellors, psychologists, nurses, public health professionals, researchers, and business professionals.

Professor Tony Wall, Founder and Head of the International Centre for Thriving at the University of Chester, lead the research study which was funded by the TS Eliot Foundation and the Old Possum's Practical Trust in collaboration with Lapidus International, the global words for wellbeing association.

Professor Wall explained: “The research identified such a diversity of practice we needed a framework that could adapt to the circumstances in which practitioners operate, but which raise awareness of aspects which could enhance the effectiveness and safety of practice.

“For example, if you are using a creative writing process with a group at work, in a way which helps them deal with working remotely during COVID-19, have you considered how that might impact individuals in the group? What it might trigger for individuals? What about individuals’ reactions on others? What about support they may need outside the session? This study found that some practitioners had never considered these aspects – but they are critical.”

The guidance is now free to download in 20 languages here, including in English, Welsh, Chinese, and Russian. The impact of the project has already extended to globally audiences, including in Europe and Australasia, across professional fields.

The research is due to be published early in 2021 in The SAGE Handbook of Organisational Wellbeing, edited by Professor Wall with Professor Sir Cary Cooper from Manchester Business School, who was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Chester for his outstanding contribution to the field of social science, and Professor Paula Brough from Griffiths University in Australia.

The project builds upon the work of Professor Wall and the wider research team at the University of Chester who have been part of the leadership team of the United Nations’ Encyclopaedia of the Sustainable Development Goals, the largest project of its kind with 17 volumes, 1,700 chapters, and over 3,000 authors around the world. The Good Health and Wellbeing volume was released earlier in 2020.

Professor Kurt Allman, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Management, where the research is located, said: “The research’s methodology enables us to explore some incredibly important issues that individuals and organisations are currently confronting. There are some amazing narratives which help to shed light on the challenges and coping mechanisms that people face in these unprecedented times.”

The University’s International Centre for Thriving is a global scale collaboration between business, arts, health, and education to deliver sustainable transformation. It advises, consults, and co-creates organisational development and change programmes to build resilience, wellbeing, and to deliver sustainable change.

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