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Conferences, workshops

The Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) Department of Health Psychology and Paedagogy organised the 6th International Conference ‘Health and Personality Development: an Interdisciplinary Approach' on 27-29 April this year. This was the first time the conference took place online.

The aim of the conference was to present the latest research and work experience in the fields of psychology research and therapy, as well as to promote the integration of research into the study process. Participants deepened their knowledge on what possibilities interdisciplinary cooperation can offer to health maintenance and disease treatment.

The opportunities offered by art therapy

Among the visiting professors was Prof. Vicky Karkou, the Director of the Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing at Edge Hill University in the UK. The Centre was established to engage in interdisciplinary research on how art contributes to the well-being of both individuals and societies in the long term.

Vikija_Karku_Vicky_Karkou.jpgAt the conference, the professor presented the “Arts for the Blues” project that is one type of psychotherapy that the centre provides. Initially, the project aimed to alleviate psychological distress in people with depression and other mental health problems by using various art approaches. ‘More recently, however, this evidence-based therapeutic intervention has been developed to support the wellbeing of medical practitioners, especially those fighting the global pandemic who are exposed to a variety of psychological risks. Various forms of interventions based in art therapy can also be relevant for the general public who may struggle with loneliness and social isolation and are in need of psychological self-care.’

‘Art can help and be a source of energy and vitality. It can encourage people to learn skills that allow them to take care of themselves and others. The various forms that art therapy can take support the development of deep relationships with others and allow people to express and process emotions that they may find difficult to talk about.’

‘By providing psychological support, the arts can be transformative, and thus, therapeutic,’ says Prof. Karkou.

The significance of remote therapy

Efrata_Netera_Efrat_Neter.jpgThe Department of Psychology and Paedagogy has, in cooperation with colleagues from RSU and professional associations, for several years been highlighting various means of providing remote therapy to get the best results. These themes were the focus of the conference.

Prof. Efrat Neter from Ruppin Academic Centre in Israel focused on the significance of remote therapy.

‘It is now especially important to make remote therapy as accessible as possible. This can be done not only by providing help for individuals, but also by organising more group counselling sessions for people from different social spheres.'

It is essential from a health psychology perspective, to gain the attention of policy makers and put forward our evidence-based proposals. And it is especially important to provide medical staff who are fighting against COVID-19 with as much psychological support as possible,’ says Prof. Neter.

Workshops as an instrument for professional development

The three-day conference programme featured reports, lectures and workshops by visiting lecturers, local academics, doctoral students, professionals and students. The programme included over 40 presentations, among them four presentations delivered by visiting lecturers, and seven workshops, five of which were lead by visiting lecturers. Among them was art therapist Julia Volonts from the US.

Julija_Volonts.jpg‘My workshop on remote art therapy focused on the topic of online therapy as a way to provide mental health services. It was an overview of the role online therapy practices currently have, their benefits and limitations, as well as various ethical and legal considerations. Through a combination of lecture and hands-on art experience, participants were encouraged to explore their own understanding about various opportunities that modern technologies offer, especially in the field of art therapy where non-verbal communication is a central component.'

'The use of art in professional practice allows us to reflect on our own personal and professional identity in order to maintain a work-life balance and to grow in our respective fields,’ explains Volonts.

The conference as a successful platform for meeting remotely

The conference was organised by the RSU Department of Health Psychology and Paedagogy. The head of the department Prof. Kristīne Mārtinsone (pictured below) looks back on what was accomplished: ‘The conference is a good platform for gathering professors and students, practitioners and researchers for discussions and to come up with new ideas. The research results of various psychological research methods and psychological interventions in working with various client and patient groups were presented in multiple plenary sessions, expert panels, symposiums and sections. We also managed to highlight essential topics associated with research methodology by fostering the introduction of new methods in research, such as visual methods, that will hopefully materialise into research works.’


‘Participating in the various workshops was an enriching experience for professionals, as they could integrate research and practice. The workshops also gave them the opportunity to discuss topics related to psychotherapy and supervision,’ the professor continued as she described the outcome of the conference.