Call for Comic and Graphic novel submissions

Jessica Kingsley Publishers and Singing Dragon (an imprint of JKP) have recently started developing an exciting new line of comics and graphics novels and we are now open for submissions.

At JKP we are committed to publishing books that make a difference. Our range of subjects includes autism, dementia, social work, art therapies, mental health, counselling, palliative care and practical theology. Have a look on for our full range of titles.

Singing Dragon publishes authoritative books on all aspects of Chinese medicine, yoga therapy, aromatherapy, massage, Qigong and complementary and alternative health more generally, as well as Oriental martial arts. Find out more on

If you have an idea that you think would work well as a graphic book, or are an artist interested in working with us, here is what we are looking for:

Graphic novel or comic – Long form

We are looking for book proposals that are between 100 and 200 pages, black and white or colour, and explore the topics listed above or another subject that would fit into the JKP/Singing Dragon list. Specifically we are hoping to develop more personal autobiographical stories.

Here are the guidelines for submission:

  1. A one-page written synopsis detailing the plot/outline of the book, as well as short bios of all the creators involved.
  2. Character sketches of the main characters with descriptions.
  3. Solo artist/writers or writer and artist teams should submit 5 to 10 completed pages to allow us to get a sense of the pace, art style and writing.
  4. Solo writers will need to submit 10 to 20 pages of script as well as the one-page synopsis from point 1.

Comic – Short form

We have some shorter comic projects underway and are looking to expand the range of topics covered. These books can run from 20 to 40 pages, black and white or colour, with dimensions of 170x230mm. We are mainly looking for comics that provide ideas and information for both professionals and general readers.

For example, the first in this series, published by Singing Dragon, is a book exploring the latest developments in chronic pain research.

Here are the guidelines for submission:

  1. A one-page written synopsis detailing the narrative style and subject matter to be explored in the book. Also include short bios of all the creators involved.
  2. Solo artist/writers or writer and artist teams should submit 3 to 5 completed pages to allow us to get a sense of the pace, art style and writing.
  3. Solo writers will need to submit 5 to 10 pages of script as well as the one-page synopsis from point 1.

When submitting please provide low-res images and send them, along with everything else, to Mike Medaglia at

If you have any other ideas that don’t directly relate to the subjects described above but you feel might still fit into the JKP or Singing Dragon list, please feel free to get in touch with ideas and enquiries on the email above.

2014 Living Now Book Awards JKP/SD Medal Winners Announced!

The Living Now Book Awards were established in 2008 to honor life-changing books, and to bring increased recognition to the year’s best lifestyle, homestyle, world-improvement and self-improvement titles. The awards celebrate the innovation and creativity of books that enhance the quality of life. The gold, silver and bronze medalists in the 2014 Living Now Book Awards highlight titles that represent some of the fastest-growing segments in book publishing today.

We are proud and excited to announce that one book from Jessica Kingsley Publishers and two books from our Singing Dragon imprint have been selected as Medal Winners!

From the Jessica Kingsley Publishers list…Final Chapters: Writings About the End of Life

Gold Medal WinnerGold Medal Winner in Grieving/Death & Dying
Final Chapters: Writings About the End of Life
Edited by Roger Kirkpatrick



From Singing Dragon…Chasing the Phantom: In Pursuit of Myth and Meaning in the Realm of the Snow Leopard

Gold Medal WinnerGold Medal Winner in Enlightenment/Spirituality
Chasing the Phantom: In Pursuit of Myth and Meaning in the Realm of the Snow Leopard
by Eduard Fischer


Bronze Medal Winner

Bronze Medal Winner in Healing Arts/Bodywork/Energy Techniques
Qigong and Chinese Self-Massage for Everyday Health Care: Ways to Address Chronic Health Issues and to Improve Your Overall Health Based on Chinese Medicine Techniques
Compiled by Zeng Qingnan






Jessica Kingsley Publishers/Singing Dragon would like to congratulate our 2014 Living Now Book Award Winning authors.

For more information on Living Now Book Awards or to see the full list of 2014 Medal Winners, please click here.

Five JKP/SD Books Win Medals in the 2013 Living Now Book Awards!

The Living Now Book Awards are designed to honor life-changing books, bringing increased recognition to the year’s very best lifestyle, world-improvement and self-improvement titles.  The awards celebrate the innovation and creativity of books that enhance the quality of life. The gold, silver and bronze medalists in the 2013 Living Now Book Awards highlight titles that represent some of the fastest-growing segments in book publishing today.

We are proud and excited to announce that three books from Jessica Kingsley Publishers and two books from our Singing Dragon imprint have been selected as Medal Winners!

From the Jessica Kingsley Publishers list…Finding Your Own Way to Grieve

Gold Medal Winner in Grieving/Death & Dying
Finding Your Own Way to Grieve: A Creative Activity Workbook for Kids and Teens on the Autism Spectrum
by Karla Helbert

Bronze Medal Winner in Family/Parenting
The Asperkid’s Launch Pad: Home Design to Empower Everyday Superheroes
by Jennifer Cook O’Toole

Bronze Medal Winner in Meditation/Relaxation
Meditation for Aspies: Everyday Techniques to Help People with Asperger Syndrome
by Ulrike Domenika Bolls

From Singing Dragon…Ten Methods of the Heavenly Dragon

Gold Medal Winner in Enlightenment/Spirituality
Ten Methods of the Heavenly Dragon
by Robert Sheaffer

Bronze Medal Winner in Exercise/Fitness/Yoga
Mudras of India: A Comprehensive Guide to the Hand Gestures of Yoga and Indian Dance
by Cain Carroll and Revital Carroll

Jessica Kingsley Publishers/Singing Dragon would like to congratulate our 2013 Living Now Book Award Winning authors.

For more information on Living Now Book Awards or to see the full list of 2013 Medal Winners, please click here.

Two JKP/SD Books Win Gold Medals in the 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Awards!

Mudras of India

ForeWord Reviews is a quarterly print journal dedicated to reviewing independently published books to provide booksellers, librarians, agents, and publishing professionals with reviews of the best titles from small, alternative, and academic presses.

ForeWord’s Book of the Year Awards program was created to highlight the year’s most distinguished books from independent publishers. The winners exemplify the best work coming from today’s independent, university, and small press communities. With 1,300 entries from more than 600 publishers, only 248 winners were selected in 62 categories.

We’re extremely excited to announce that two books from Jessica Kingsley Publishers/Singing Dragon have been selected as Gold Medal Winners!

The Complete Guide to Getting a Job for People with Asperger's SyndromeGold Medal Winner in Adult Nonfiction — Body, Mind & Spirit
Mudras of India: A Comprehensive Guide to the Hand Gestures of Yoga and Indian Dance
by Cain Carroll and Revital Carroll

Gold Medal Winner in Adult Nonfiction — Career
The Complete Guide to Getting a Job for People with Asperger’s Syndrome: Find the Right Career and Get Hired
by Barbara Bissonnette

Jessica Kingsley Publishers/Singing Dragon would like to congratulate our 2012 BOYTA Gold Medal Winners.

For more information on ForeWord Reviews, the BOTYA or to see the full selection of 2012 Medal Winners, please visit: BOTYA 2012 Winners.

Three JKP/SD Books Named as Finalists in the 2012 ForeWord BOTY Awards!

ForeWord Reviews is a quarterly print journal dedicated to reviewing independently published books to provide booksellers, librarians, agents, and publishing professionals with reviews of the best titles from small, alternative, and academic presses.

ForeWord’s Book of the Year Awards program was created to highlight the year’s most distinguished books from independent publishers. Finalists were selected from 1300 entries covering 62 categories of books from independent and academic presses. These books represent some of the best books produced by independent publishing houses in 2012.

We’re extremely excited to announce that three books from Jessica Kingsley Publishers/Singing Dragon have been selected as Finalists!

Finalist in Adult Nonfiction — Body, Mind & Spirit

Mudras of India: A Comprehensive Guide to the Hand Gestures of Yoga and Indian Dance
by Cain Carroll and Revital Carroll

Finalist in Adult Nonfiction — Career

The Complete Guide to Getting a Job for People with Asperger’s Syndrome: Find the Right Career and Get Hired
by Barbara Bissonnette

Finalist in Children’s — Young Adult Nonfiction

Inside Asperger’s Looking Out
by Kathy Hoopmann

A panel of sixty judges, librarians and booksellers only, will determine the winners. Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards, as well as Editor’s Choice Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction, will be announced at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago, Friday, June 28th, 6pm at The Pop Top Stage.

JKP/SD would like to congratulate all of our 2012 BOYTA Finalists.

For more information on ForeWord Reviews, the BOTYA or to see the full selection of 2012 Finalists, please visit: BOTYA 2012 Finalists

Teaching Yoga to Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders? A Piece of Cake!

By Michael Chissick, primary school teacher and qualified yoga instructor, and specialist in teaching yoga to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and author of Frog’s Breathtaking Speech.

Exciting New Training Project

An exciting new initiative which delivers the benefits of yoga to hundreds of children with autism will be the cherry on the cake. The project will be in action at a Special Needs Academy in Lincolnshire, UK, after Easter with more to follow.

Over the past thirteen years I have developed a model of how to teach yoga to children with autism. The model can be used by class teachers and teaching assistants with no previous experience of yoga. The structures, activities and postures are easy to learn and are safe to teach. The model is suitable for children across all key stages.

Special schools that have a high proportion of children on the autistic spectrum will use the model. The advantages are that teaching and training are geared to the specific needs of their pupils, and staff can be trained economically without time away from school; and the icing on the cake is that staff can use the model immediately.

How did we reach this point?

I have been teaching Yoga to KS1, 2 & 3 pupils as part of the integrated day at Special Needs School for thirteen years. Many of the children I teach have autism and sensory processing disorders. During each thirty minute session I work with the whole class, class teacher and teaching assistants. Time restraints make it impossible for me to teach all classes in my schools, so I tend to alternate classes every half term.

I had noticed that when I returned to a class to continue after a 5/6 week break there was a need to start over again, which can be frustrating. For many years I simply regarded it as part of the job of teaching pupils with ASD.

However over the last couple of years I have noticed that some classes had retained what I had taught them and were as enthusiastic as ever for their yoga. So what distinguishes the ‘ready-for-more-class’ from the ‘let’s-start-again-class? The answer is that the class teachers and teaching assistants have been teaching their pupils yoga without me… and doing a brilliant job at it too!

Why does it work?

The answer also lies in the fundamentals of my highly structured approach. For example, the children are seated on chairs in a circle. I use a visual timetable and posture cards to keep my verbal input to the minimum. Within the structure I target several layers or elements simultaneously; it’s like a multi-tiered cake. These layers are easily recognised by colleagues who are already experts at working with children with ASD and are using similar models in other curriculum areas.


The Layers

  1. Engagement tactics are, for example, encouraging children to choose from posture cards hanging from an umbrella; or children throwing tiny bean bags into the holes on a colourful board as a means of choosing a posture.
  2. Fun is key! Children eagerly get out of their chairs and into the posture because it’s fun; if it continues to be fun then they will want to stay in the posture.
  3. Repetition of postures over the weeks is a crucial; as children become more at ease with the posture leading to improved skills and greater confidence.
  4. Every child Achieves in the lesson.
  5. Social Skills like waiting, listening, speaking, helping each other, taking turns and following rules are targeted.
  6. Fitness Flexibility and improved co-ordination are the layers that tend to hit the news.
  7. Sensory is the sweetest layer. The vestibular system ‘tells us if we are moving or still, while our proprioceptive system is the unconscious awareness of our body position’ (Yack et al 2002). A combination of both systems gives us vital information about movement and where we are in relation to, for example, the floor. I teach many children whose vestibular and proprioceptive systems are dysfunctional. Using yoga postures I help to regulate those dysfunctions.


Feedback from the Academy in Lincolnshire was wonderfully positive describing the day as excellent and staff commented that the model:

‘…does away with many pre-conceptions and prejudices – it helps make different types of movement accessible to all.’

It is early days in Lincolnshire, but soon the children and staff will be enjoying their yoga while I’ll be teaching 175 miles away. Seems like I’ll be having my cake and eating it.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

“Although fatigue may persist, it can go away” – An interview with Lucie Montpetit

Photo: Singing Dragon author Lucie Montpetit
Photo: Singing Dragon author Lucie Montpetit (Credit: Jackie Fritz)

Lucie Montpetit is an occupational therapist with over 25 years’ experience working in a variety of hospital settings. She runs workshops on managing fatigue, stress and pain using the approach she has developed incorporating a number of different techniques. She has personally suffered from debilitating fatigue and restored her health through the methods she now teaches others.

She is the author of Breaking Free from Persistent Fatigue – new from Singing Dragon.

In this interview, Lucie recounts her personal experience with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and how overcoming this condition through a combination of occupational therapy techniques and Eastern health modalities inspired her to help others to do the same.

Can you please tell us a bit about you and your personal and professional interest in improving the lives of people with persistent fatigue?

First, I’d like to explain that I chose the expression “persistent fatigue” because although fatigue may persist, it can go away. A frame of mind open to hope is important in healing.

When I started working as an occupational therapist, I was interested in understanding the drops in energy of my patients. Despite people’s motivation to get better, a lack of energy became apparent in rehabilitation. I encountered different types of lack of energy, whether patients were suffering from major depression in an acute psychiatric setting; war veterans suffering from late onset diabetes leading to leg amputation; or young mothers who just encountered their first major energy drop from multiple sclerosis or a rheumatoid arthritic attack. Personally, I went to see a neurologist at the age of 29 because of sudden energy drops and my GP thought I had multiple sclerosis, but nothing was found and it went away within two weeks. Then, after my second child was born, I had multisystemic symptoms that my GP did not understand. He said I must be stressed. But I did not feel I was more stressed than my co-workers and friends who had to conjugate career and family life.

Book cover: Breaking Free from Persistent FatigueEventually, despite my relatively healthy lifestyle, I had to find another doctor who put me on sick leave with the diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis. It took me about two years to recover from the persistent debilitating fatigue. After that I started to do workshops for patients suffering from similar daily challenges. My book reflects in part my own findings to regain my health as well as the work I have done as an occupational therapist with patients suffering from debilitating fatigue associated with different diagnoses. So it is not a book about disease but about finding solutions according to different ways of gaining back one’s physical, emotional and psychological energy balance. For many, it is also a path towards empowerment and finding a new meaning in daily activities.

Can you paint us a picture of what the person with fatigue goes through on a daily basis?

Once the imbalance is severe, here is what I observed in my patients: Sudden energy drops at fixed time during the day or after physical exercise; poor sleep of different kinds (inability to fall asleep, waking up many times during the night with an urge to urinate and/or unable to feel refreshed even after a good night’s sleep); food and environmental intolerances; exacerbation of known allergies or new allergy appearances; dizziness; mood swings; foggy thinking; no buffer to deal with stress; having a hard time doing little things around the house, such as washing dishes, due to lack of energy and reduced capacity to organise and plan; having projects in mind and interests to pursue but the inability to do so due to lack of energy; not being able to lift grocery bags without shaking like a leaf and needing to go to bed right after; preferring to be alone but not necessary being depressed – essentially just needing to use as little energy as possible to “survive another day”.

What causes this debilitating condition?

One thing for sure is that long standing exposure to stress is a cause of this debilitating condition, but not only psychosocial stressors like your work environment, a conjugal separation or the death of a close relative. These can also include viral infections, postural stressors that leads to jaw misalignment and lack of sleep, nutritional deficiencies that prevent the production of energy at the cellular level, candidiasis, and long term exposure to moulds, endocrine disruptors, heavy metals, allergens, electromagnetic smog and other environmental pollutants.

The accumulation of stressors leads to the imbalance of your psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrine (PNI) super system, known by researchers as allostatic overload.

What makes it worse, and what makes it better?

Continuous exposure to stressors of any kind – insomnia, not respecting one’s limitations and forcing oneself to do more – makes things worse. To make things better, get rid of the stressors when possible; eat energising foods rather than energy draining processed foods; modify daily habits to optimize the natural chronobiological hormonal cycles of one’s body; learn to change one’s mode of reacting into a more energising way of responding to daily life challenges; and make informed choices while honouring one’s strength and limitations. Choosing the right physical intensity of exercise to regain one’s capacities is crucial, while choosing key nutrients to optimise cellular energy production is also important in the process. Learning how to breathe efficiently through the nose in order to optimise the oxygen input is also very important.

What is the book about, and what motivated you to write it?

For many years, I have been dissatisfied with medical answers that purport to address the debilitating fatigue suffered by my patients with auto-immune diseases. Lack of resources and understanding, finding quick fix medications such as antidepressants for patients clearly suffering from musculoskeletal symptoms such as fibromyalgia, and having difficulty finding answers with the variety of health professionals I personally consulted inspired me to write the book. I needed to find answers firstly for myself, and then got the urge to share my findings and what I had learned with others facing similar prejudices among some health care practitioners. So the book is about finding personal solutions, different for each reader because of their own type of debilitating fatigue and personal way of over-spending their energy. People will learn how to make an energy balance sheet like one would do financially when consolidating debts. From their findings, they will figure out how to save energy in their daily lives and regain their inner mind-body balance towards health.

Can you talk about how your work and approach is influenced by Chinese medicine and other practices?

As an occupational therapist I was trained to view my patients from a holistic perspective, which is in accordance with my personal understanding. People require a meaning in the activity they are doing in therapy; they need goals of their own to reach in addition to those of my rehabilitation treatment plan for them. From my perspective as a martial artist of many decades, I am also influenced by the efficiency of energy expenditure, the need for the energy to circulate through the meridians and the influence of the breath during outer and inner Qi Gong and martial practice.

For me, the autonomous nervous system (ANS) follows the yin/yang principles. Patients I treat, for different reasons, have lost the balance of their PNI super system. This has direct repercussions on the ANS as it reverts to a constant “fight or flight” reaction mode as a result of too many stressors that leads to a narrow, skewed perception of daily life. In these circumstances, the ANS becomes too much yang.

I teach patients to reconnect with their bodies through their senses, the awareness of their body and posture in space and their breathing pattern. Then I use different Qi Gong exercises according to the level of energy of my clients or Chan Ssu Chin Tai Chi exercises (known as Silk Reeling Cocoon exercises) to reconnect further with their breath and body and the body’s ability to heal itself. Sometimes I use Neurofunctional reorganisation – Padovan’s Method® (NFR) with the patients to regain the balance of their autonomic nervous system and sleep rhythm: it is a powerful tool that follows brain plasticity principles. I had used NFR mainly with patients suffering from neurological conditions that follows brain plasticity principles in the past. Many of the NRF exercises help my clients suffering from debilitating fatigue as well because it helps reorganise posture, breathing, and ANS functions and rhythms.

Once the body starts to regain its natural rhythms, I encourage my patients to implement what they found useful in therapy into their lifestyle. I teach them about chronobiological rhythms so they can choose for themselves the minor changes in their daily habits that can help foster the natural flow of hormones and chi. Finally, when the patient starts to get out of the constant “fight or flight” mode and is ready to respond in a new way, I make use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) principles to help make changes to the energy draining perception of daily life to energising life habits that are better suited for the recovery process. All of those life changes follow the yin/yang principle to break free from persistent fatigue while restoring the inner balance called homeostasis in Western medicine.

How does the book reflect your general philosophy about health?

For me, health is a dynamic equilibrium within oneself. Equilibrium takes place in the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions of our lives in relation to our environment. If a person is disconnected from one aspect of his or her self, the imbalance will eventually be reflected in the other dimensions of his or her life. I believe that every person who comes to consult me is in part responsible for restoring and then maintaining his or her PNI super system dynamic balance that we refer to as health. People are amazing at finding ways to change their lives in ways that make sense to them. Once they realise from a new point of view how they were living, they have no interest of returning to their previous lifestyle.

Our environment has never had such a strong negative impact on our health. Depleted soils and foods, pollution of all senses, the intrusion of technology in every aspect of our daily lives and having to deal with the compound effects of so many hundreds of chemicals even before we are born are also major stressors that health professionals too often neglect. These are also consequences of living in a world that is too “yang”. There is an implicit false belief that we have to be busy and multitasking most of the time. We can be proactive in maintaining or restoring our health once we gain knowledge of those relatively new phenomena. Knowledge is power. Feeling empowered rather than feeling a victim of a disease changes your outlook on your condition. This frees your body-mind and it starts to heal itself faster. Allowing a few minutes per day to be rather than to do is sometimes sufficient to maintain one’s inner balance.

Finally, how should this book be used by the reader?

The book is to be read and applied according to your level of energy. As a start, people who have low energy would benefit from knowing how to nourish their bodies to optimise energy production. Then they should go to the chapter that appeals to them. Usually, a gut feeling leads people to what they need. If a reader is too exhausted to concentrate on reading, I recommend bringing the book to a true friend or the health professional he or she is working with to do some of the exercises with the assistance of the health professional.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2012.

Using Textile Arts and Handcrafts in Therapy with Women – An Interview with Ann Futterman Collier

Ann Futterman Collier is a licensed Clinical Psychologist with many years experience of working with textile arts and therapy. She is a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in abnormal psychology, counseling techniques, health psychology, and art therapy theory; she also conducts research on the well-being of women who create with textiles. She resides in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Using Textile Arts and Handcrafts in Therapy with Women: Weaving Lives Back Together

Can you tell us a bit about your experience – personally and professionally – with textiles, and what led you to explore the therapeutic uses of this medium?

I am mostly self-taught at fiber arts. I began creating with textiles when I was a child; it was my own interest, not something those around me knew much about. I taught myself to sew when I was 11. I apprenticed at a professional costume shop in a summer-stock theater beginning at 14; by the time I was 17, I was the lead dresser and had been offered a costuming job at a major theater company (which I turned down in order to attend college). I learned to weave at 21 and then began to make my own fabric to sew with. I wove my way through graduate school (Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles), grounding myself in my tiny “loom-room” filled with colors and textures. Somehow, the hypomanic sleep deprivation caused by “creating” cloth until 4:00 am often gave me more energy, not less, to cope. The “making” of fabric revitalized, invigorated and transformed me.

Subsequently, every place I lived in or traveled to, I learned new textile techniques, typically from everyday people around me. I managed to transport my 54-inch counter-balanced loom to Micronesia, New Zealand, and then Alaska. I found a universal, non-verbal language to connect with women through textiles: from remote villages in Laos along the Mekong River, to small hamlets in rural Indonesia, to sheep farms in the far south island of New Zealand, to isolated Pacific atolls in Micronesia and Polynesia, to dirt pathways behind storefronts in Ubud, Bali. My training in textiles came from girls, young women, and old women all over the world; they taught me different ways to weave, shear sheep, felt, use a kajip, batik, spin and sew. And while I learned and watched, I created personal connections with strangers who had very little in common with me aside from our love of cloth. Ironically, as my fiber-making skills developed, my clinical skills also developed. I became better at creating relationships and more and more comfortable with using textiles as an entryway to connect with women whom I didn’t know. At some point, it became obvious to me that making textiles and clinical psychology didn’t need to be two separate compartments in my life: I realized that I was already integrating the two.

What motivated you to write this book and share your experiences of using textile arts in therapy?

Women all over the world make objects with fibers and textiles. Historically, textile-making has served a central and functional role for women. With the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, textile-making moved out of the home and into factories; eventually individual textile-making declined. This was further exacerbated as women in the 60’s and 70’s questioned and rejected stereotypic feminine constructs that they perceived as domestic and oppressive. Fiber arts were seen as uncreative, old-fashioned and ugly. Despite this denigration, there has been a renaissance in textile handcrafts since the early part of the 21st century. Labeled everything from the “craft revolution” to the “new generation of do-it-yourselfers,” the pendulum has swung back and they are now seen as more acceptable, creative, and worthwhile pursuits.

“Why this book?” The majority of art therapy books and journal articles emphasize the visual arts and expressive arts. Although these do theoretically include textiles and fiber-making, there are shockingly few studies and no books dedicated exclusively to the application of textiles in art therapy. Textile words, metaphors, and idioms are deeply engrained in the English language (e.g. “spinning a tale,” “a thread of discourse,” “to come unraveled,” “unveiling the techniques,” “interwoven lives,” “hanging by a thread,” “on pins and needles,” “wear and tear,” and “at loose ends,”). As such, they naturally avail themselves to symbolically describe our inner psychological and outer social lives and can be used to explore key issues. And, in the every-day making of textiles, women cope with their lives, they keep their spirits uplifted. This book provides suggestions about how to use the metaphors and idioms already entrenched in textile arts, therapeutically. It also provides the clinician with a framework for how to explore textile-making in therapy. Finally, in my experience, multiple psychological issues can and do arise while taking fiber-related workshops – which many women (and men) take. Most artists (other than art therapists) are not trained in how to deal with these issues. I also wrote this book for them; to help fiber artists understand the processes that may be triggered in women when creating with textiles.

Why are textiles and fibers such effective media to use when working with women in particular? Can your approach be used with men?

Photo: "Yvette" by textile artist Christine Davis

Photo: "Yvette" by textile artist Christine Davis

They are an effective starting point because many women already know how to use multiple kinds of textile techniques (e.g. knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning, sewing, embroidery, beading, rug hooking, felting, etc.), and, because many women already use them this way. For example, last summer I crocheted a sweater while my friend was dying; all of my pain and her pain were absorbed into the sweater during the time I was with her. The sweater became more than an object of distraction or of beauty. It became an object that held memories of my feelings and it captured precious yet difficult moments shared in time.

I recently published a study using a sample of almost 900 women across the USA and the Pacific Rim. From my research, I can honestly say that if you know how to use textile mediums, it will be one of the best activities you can use to rejuvenate and repair a bad mood. If you don’t tend to use fiber-making that way (e.g. instead you go for a walk, listen to music, call a friend) you will probably fare better, emotionally, by working on a textile project!

I chose to focus on women in the book because fiber-making is so embedded in our history, and because most women have some degree of skill in textile handcrafts. I also focused on women to simplify the psychological issues that would be discussed in the book, and because internationally, women have poorer mental health than men do (especially reflected in the incidence of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and certain personality disorders). However, I agree that art-making using one’s preferred medium has therapeutic value regardless of gender and regardless of the medium! Yes, I believe that the benefits of textile making are applicable to men as well. Especially if that man was already a textile handcrafter!

How does the book reflect your general philosophy about health and happiness?

About 10 years ago, I noticed something interesting in my textile-making: as I made handcrafts, I was transformed into a better “mental” place. Whether I spent hours, days, weeks, or months on a project, I always seemed to feel rejuvenated, energized, and restored afterwards. What is more, I found that I was better able to cope with life, to put adversity into perspective, and to stop ruminating.

About five years ago I began to wonder about this from a research perspective. Although I knew that textiles helped me to cope, my theory was that any leisure activity that was energizing, absorbing, and engaging, should lead to rejuvenation and hence positive mood repair. My preliminary research (together with my colleague Dr. Catya von Karolyi) has suggested that there are indeed multiple mood changing activities available for us to use, such as listening to music, exercising and talking to friends. The more engaging and energizing these activities are, the more they can positively change mood and result in rejuvenation. Going back to my textile research, the more arousing the fiber-making activity was (weaving and quilting were rated as the highest), the more effective it was at mood repair and rejuvenation. Thus excitement about fibers, mentally challenging and engaging textile projects, and even the movement associated with making textiles, all appear to be good for your mental health!

Art therapy classically emphasizes psychodynamic and psychoanalytic approaches; this typically encourages the person to express and vent negative feelings through their artwork. My approach uses art-making somewhat differently: it is seen as a way to bring about positive mood, pleasure and rejuvenation. I believe that this, in turn, reinforces the continuation of textile-making, which subsequently promotes more positive mood and coping. The book also shows how textile art-making can be taken to an entirely new level: building and constructing metaphorical objects in order to explore issues in more depth.

In the book you provide a whole range of practical textile-based projects that are tailored to key issues that crop up in therapy with women. Can you give an example and explain why it works so well?

The reader will find a variety of psychosocial issues matched with corresponding archetypes, metaphors, myths, and symbols, as well as fiber materials and objects. I was careful not to write a formula book – i.e. use this technique and these materials to resolve these problems. Instead, you will find a natural pairing of psychological issues with topical metaphors, textile metaphors, and object metaphors. I strongly encourage the reader to tailor these projects to accommodate the client’s skills, interests, religious or spiritual beliefs, cultural background, disability, previous expertise, and issues. I also suggest ways to use expressive writing and guided imagery to expand this exploration.

For example, one series of projects I suggest in the book is associated with healing emotional scars. The suggested object to make is healing (or prayer) shawls; the metaphors are the archetypal healer (e.g. Akesco, the Greek Goddess of healing wounds and curing illness) and scar tissue. Scars provide an amazing metaphor for our lives: We learn, we grow, and we get hurt. And we must learn to “defend” ourselves while we heal. Some of us respond to injury excessively; we produce tough scars that act as barriers and involve complicated networks of defense. Some of us shut down completely, the scar walls so strong and high that nothing can get through. Shawls are beautiful pieces of clothing. They also embrace, envelop, wrap, shelter, and give us comfort. Materials used to create shawls can vary from nuno felting or laminate felting (which can look a lot like scars) to crochet, but they all create a web, similar to the scar. Used this way, the making of the shawl can metaphorically transform the image of the scar into one of healing.

The book also includes vignettes about textile artists – can you tell us a bit about these?

During the time that I was doing research for this book, I kept coming across remarkable fiber artists who seemed to deeply understand the opportunity for expression that textile mediums allowed. They seemed to “get it,” how the metaphors and psychological issues could be integrated with the mediums and the objects. I would often stop in my tracks to examine their work with reverence and ponder at how startlingly expressive they were, and think wouldn’t “this piece” or “that piece” be a magnificent example for my book?

Photo: "Buba" by textile artist Neta Amir

Photo: "Buba" by textile artist Neta Amir

Eventually, it dawned on me to ask them if I could use their pictures. They were thrilled to participate; it was like singing to the choir. The textile artists were each selected because their artwork is brilliantly metaphoric; their preferred mediums are textile-based; they are female; and they are psychologically sensitive to both their own internal processes and to those of their students.

How should this book be used?

The book was originally intended for mental health professionals, and its theoretical orientation is mostly geared towards people who already have background knowledge and training in counseling (e.g., counselors, psychologists, occupational therapists, art therapists, expressive art therapists, recreational art therapists). It can also be used for fiber/textile art teachers who want to gain more of an understanding about psychological processes in themselves and their students. This book will also be useful to the individual textile handcrafter who wants to explore personal issues via textiles, in more depth.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Event: An Evening with Master Zhongxian Wu

Here’s an event you might be interested in by one of our most respected authors who is visiting the UK in February for a series of lectures and workshops.

The Chinese Tea Company Presents
An Evening with Master Zhongxian Wu

CHA DAO: The Way of Tea
An exploration into the traditional Chinese culture and appreciation of Tea

GU QIN: The Ancient Chinese Zither
A rare performance of ‘Qin Xin’/Heart Music

Time: Tuesday 31st January 2012, 7pm
Location: Juyan’s Teahouse, 14 Portobello Green, London,W10 5TZ
Admission: £30

This event is limited to 8 people, so please book in advance to ensure a space.
Premium Teas will be available to drink and purchase on the evening.

Contact either Alex: 079 212 65432 Or Juyan: 079 908 98549
For more information on Master Wu please visit:

More information on the Chinese Tea company
Download the PDF about this event: Master Wu Tea Evening

Compassionate care through touch – An interview with Niamh van Meines

Niamh van Meines
is a nurse practitioner, currently self employed as a nurse consultant. She is also a licensed massage therapist, and a skilled clinical leader and educator in oncology, homecare, hospice and palliative care. Together with Barbara Goldschmidt, she has written the new book, Comforting Touch in Dementia and End of Life Care: Take My Hand, published by JKP imprint Singing Dragon.

Here, Niamh explains why touch is so essential to care.

Can you tell us a bit about the paths that led you to massage therapy, and to its applications in integrative health and palliative care?

I was a homecare nurse and wanted to offer therapy that would be comforting to my patients in ways that nursing did not routinely provide care. While massage therapy is within the scope of practice for nurses, I did not feel prepared to perform massage effectively, especially with patients who had chronic and terminal illness. I decided to go to the Swedish Institute of Massage Therapy and my interest in incorporating massage into nursing practice came from there. There are multiple studies that show the beneficial effect of massage therapy on the symptoms associated with disease, so I believe massage can be utilized as a symptom management technique. This is very useful in palliative and hospice care where multiple therapies, treatments and modalities are used to alleviate the distress that patients experience.

How did the new book come about, and what is it about, generally?

Barbara asked me to join her in writing this book as she had developed the hand massage protocol and implemented it in a nursing home. My expertise in hospice and palliative care and perspective on providing comfort for patients through multiple avenues resulted in a wonderful collaboration with this book. We both had an interest in providing ways for caregivers to help and to feel that their efforts are effective in providing comfort, so teaching hand massage to caregivers is a great opportunity to change not only the patient’s experience, but also the caregiver’s experience too.

How does the book reflect your general philosophy about care?

I believe that caring for any person who is ill begins with compassion which can be delivered in many ways. Touch is one of the most fundamental ways to offer support and caring and is often underestimated or disregarded in healthcare settings. Touch is often mechanistic and task oriented, so teaching healthcare practitioners to incorporate hand massage redirects their actions to that of a caring activity, which also has an affect on their perspective on helping to “heal”. A hand massage is a wonderful, easy introduction to using touch. From a caregiver’s perspective, they often feel disconnected from the person who is ill or weary of touching them, so it’s a wonderful way to approach the ill person and provide care in a manner that is satisfying to the ill person and to the caregiver, and safe. The hands are the most logical place to start as it often is the first place that we touch when communicating with and meeting people for the first time.

What are the benefits of touch as a way of connecting with people, as opposed to other methods of communication?

Touch can convey so many things that other forms of communication do not. Touch can be directed in many ways. It can have a calming effect or a stimulating effect that can be tailored to the goals of the touch experience. The hands are one of the easiest ways to approach someone; merely by shaking hands, you can have a dramatic effect. Touch can be more powerful than other forms of communication especially when someone is sick. Touch directed in a caring way can have more meaning than words, which makes it a useful tool when teaching caregivers to express through touch what they cannot often express through words.

What are some common obstacles people encounter when trying to use hand massage?

Caregivers often feel inadequate or unprepared to do massage. They have fears of being awkward or ineffective. They are not sure if they are doing it right. The beauty though, is that any touch whether awkward or not, can positively influence the giver and receiver. People often have difficulty slowing down and paying attention to energetic influences. This also comes with practice, so people need encouragement to keep practicing and over time, how they feel about the massage will change.

How can the book help caregivers overcome this and other obstacles?

This book touches on many areas that most people do not think about, especially from an energetic perspective and from an eastern approach to touch. It teaches people about the simplicity of touch and how it can have a dramatic effect. We hope that the framework in the hand massage protocol allows people to take the first step towards incorporating massage into their everyday caregiving.

This book can be used as a guide to doing a hand massage protocol. We encourage caregivers to have the book with them when doing massage, so that they can reference the steps and view the illustrations. It can also be used as a teaching tool in a classroom setting.

What are some examples of best practice?

Best practices always put the receiver’s needs first. Safety and comfort are a priority, so the giver must ensure the receiver is not suffering or in distress before performing massage. We also encourage caregivers to discuss the use of massage with the healthcare team to obtain permission, but also to find out if there are cautions and contraindications to massage. Because the receivers often have significant illness, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and pay attention to the receivers reaction to massage. This is truly a client-centered approach. And lastly, don’t take it too seriously. Massage should be light-hearted and friendly, an experience to be enjoyed not just by the receiver, but by the giver too.

Next blog post: Encountering the Radiant Sea – An Article by Barbara Goldschmidt »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.