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Wellbeing: some insights into meanings and practices across cultures

22 October 2021 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
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You are invited to join us in this exciting conference as we move away from the Western trend of looking at mental health through the narrow lens of diagnosis and categorisation, and look towards some Eastern, African-oriented and Asian understandings of Wellbeing.

Through exploring insights into meanings and practices of Wellbeing across cultures, we will see what we can learn from our international speakers, and how we can better serve marginalised groups within the UK. 

Learning Outcomes:

  • Develop awareness of issues and themes to consider some similarities and differences within and between Eastern and Western philosophies of Wellbeing.
  • Explore Wellbeing in terms of meanings and practices across cultures.
  • Draw on the presenters’ professional, clinical and lived experiences of working with Wellbeing across cultures.
  • Reflect on how some insights into meanings and practices across cultures impact the way we conceptualise Wellbeing.
  • Reflect on what Wellbeing can mean and how some insights from today can shape our own practices across the cultures we each inhabit.


10.00- 10.05am   Dr Phil Cox, Psychotherapy Section Chair’s introduction

10.05 - 10.15am Why we’ve organised the conference this way

10.15 -10.30am  Keynote:

Steve Heigham - Mental health across the world

This presentation will look at recent research into how the cultural evolution of western nations has produced differences in conceptualisation and practice of mental health and wellbeing. The main themes that will be examined will be individualism, family systems, impersonal markets, social norms and self-regulation.

10.30 -10.45am   Keynote:

Professor Zenobia Nadirshaw MBE - How the East meets the West in wellbeing

Ethnic minority communities living in UK are exposed to two different cultural value systems. My presentation will look at the four interrelated core values of the British/ English community versus the Indian community (Eastern values), first proposed by the late Dr Pittu Laungani.  I will then briefly touch upon how that impacts on therapy and the client’s well-being.

10.45 - 11.00am  Break

11.00 -11.45am   Andy Curtis-Payne

SVASTHA - wholistic well-being for the individual and society! Svastha is a word that comes from the Veda (the ancient teachings upon which yoga is based), it is defined as our natural state and literally means being in one’s Self, that is identified with our highest potential. This talk will use this word for an exploration of how yoga can help us attain and maintain this desired state and its relevance to the world we live in today. Most importantly, yoga offers tools and methods that are accessible to all if appropriately applied, simple techniques to promote and maintain well-being! Additionally, the teachings of the Veda also offer Ayurveda (literally the science of life - that is how to live a happy, healthy and productive life, again realising our highest potential). It should be remembered that this highest potential also encompasses the Spiritual aspect of ourselves as, for many, this is our highest potential.

11.45 - 12.30pm  Audrey West

Owning our Madness: Towards personal, national, and global mental health in the wake of 500 years European colonial distortion of selfhood. An introduction to the work of Professor Frederick W. Hickling

Professor Frederick Hickling was a bold Jamaican psychiatrist who upended the provenance of madness in Jamaica during his post as chief medical officer at the Bellevue Mental Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica during the 1970’s. He piloted the practice of psychohistoriography to examine the personal, social and colonial historical past that brought Jamaicans in mental distress to such a draconian institution. Prof Hickling assisted patients out of this oppression through personal and collective narrative leading to psychodrama, dance, and other creative expression. This included transforming the prison like grounds into a horticultural farm with a central theatre space: cultural therapy. Prof Hickling was unceremoniously ejected from this ground-breaking intervention towards mental health when he advocated the benefits of marijuana in calming mentally disturbed people. Prof Hickling soon regained international recognition and acclaim. In later life, his leonine white beard and firm, caring approach symbolised his power. His practice is still in its early global formation: we remain mad, until we recognise the lies and damage that our colonial and historical past has heaped on us, causing us to respond to the present in destructive ways for self and other.

12.30 -1.00pm     Break

1.00 - 1.45pm   Juan Du

A culturally sensitive approach: Chinese Calligraphy Enhanced Therapy (CCET)

Chinese Calligraphy Handwriting as a mindfulness-based brush meditation has been practised for thousands of years in China. To Chinese people, calligraphy practice is not just a national art and cultural-historical heritage; it is a well-known and familiar way of achieving relaxation and harmony of the body and the mind, which are also essential for physical and psychological functioning. Chinese Calligraphy Enhanced Therapy (CCET) is a therapeutic intervention designed by Juan Du as a culturally sensitive and non-threatening approach to bridging Chinese clients’ access to psychological therapy. This workshops design is inspired by Juan’s clinical work and personal experience of psychotherapy practice and her teaching as a mindfulness teacher for community services. Please have a pencil and paper ready for the interactive part of the workshop!

1.45 - 2.30pm      Sabnum Dharamsi and Abdullah Maynard

How do Muslims survive and thrive within secular and prejudicial spaces? 

Less heavily framed conceptions of well-being are a precursor for greater inclusivity, wherein clients can be multi-dimensional and balanced, rather than two-dimensional figures in the western imaginary.  Abdullah Maynard and Sabnum Dharamsi will share their experiences of spiritual and socio-political realities in the teaching and practice of Islamic Counselling. In doing so we hope to touch on the nature of being, consciousness, belief, and how these primary concepts relate to Islam, a way of understanding reality shared by 1.6 billion people. We hope that this alternative perspective offers challenges to established thinking of wellbeing. 

2.30 - 2.55pm      Plenary with attendee questions to the any or all the presenters

2.55 - 3.00pm      Closing    

3.10 – 4.00pm      Psychotherapy Section AGM - all are welcome to attend


Steve Heigham

Steven Heigham is a lecturer in Counselling on the Foundation degree at University College Weston, teaching Humanistic counselling theory and the Psychology and Sociology of mental health. I also act as a visiting lecturer on other subjects; most recently on Evolutionary Psychology and Psychology and Climate change. As a past chair of the Psychotherapy Section, I’ve helped to arrange and present Continuing Professional Development courses and conferences, and contributed regularly to the section’s Review magazine. I am also a member of the Community Psychology section, which I believe is an important direction for the future of psychotherapy, and contribute actively to the South West branch, writing and presenting.

Professor Zenobia Nadirshaw MBE

Professor Zenobia Nadirshaw MBE is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with 44 years of clinical and management NHS experience of Health and Social Care Services in Learning Disabilities and Mental Health Care. She was given the MBE in June 2019. Zenobia has worked in a variety of Health and Social Services settings – including projects/initiatives with a commitment to continuous improvements in psychological health care for clients and positive outcomes for their carers. Zenobia has also directed and led substantial organisational change at local level, and also in the British Psychological Society and the Division of Clinical Psychology - influencing service delivery issues and impacting on the profession of Clinical Psychology, psychologists’ training and development of competencies to work effectively in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic British context.

Andy Curtis-Payne

Andy Curtis-Payne has been teaching yoga in the tradition of Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikachar for over 25 years.... and believes passionately in using the breadth and depth of yoga tools for healing and transformation - whether that be physical, physiological, emotional or psychological. He holds a BWY Diploma as well as a Viniyoga Britain Practitioner Diploma. Andy is the current Chair of The British Council for Yoga Therapy and has taught internationally. Andy divides his time between one-to-one tuition/yoga therapy, training, weekly classes and workshops. He has travelled repeatedly to India and studied with TKV Desikachar at the Krsnamacarya Yoga Manidram, a world renowned centre for yoga therapy. In 2009, Andy was certificated by him as a Teacher Trainer and in 2013 undertook an internship at the KYM. He continues to study with his teacher Paul Harvey and at the KYM in Chennai.

Juan Du

Juan Du is a bilingual psychotherapist, mindfulness teacher, and researcher clinician.  She holds a MA in Cross-Culture Communication, MSc in Experimental Psychology, and is currently completing a doctorate in Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy at the Metanoia Institute.  Her professional website is https://juandutherapy.co.uk

Audrey West

Audrey West moved from North London to North Wales in 2017 to pursue her creative interests. She felt this area of outstanding beauty reflected her birthplace within the Portland Jamaica landscape, and intends to share this gift by offering creative wellbeing retreats. Audrey received her Post-Graduate diploma as a Psychosynthesis Counsellor and Psychotherapist in 1998. Following an MA in Cultural Memory, 2002, and her raised awareness of the reverberation of trauma in descendants of enslaved Africans who had suffered the onslaughts of the transatlantic chattel slave industry, Audrey pursued post-trauma therapy work. Audrey exhibitions range across spaces and time, from a 1986 Channel 4 televised exhibition of UK Black Woman Artists ‘Some of Us Are Brave, All of Us Are Strong’, to 2019 participation in Culture Colony Interventions at the Museum of Modern Art Machynlleth. Audrey writes in different forms including narrative verse and is now preparing to stage a production written in sonnets about Shakespeare’s Dark Lady. Audrey fully engages with community empowerment and is an executive committee member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union (PCU).

Sabnum Dharamsi and Abdullah Maynard

Sabnum Dharamsi and Abdullah Maynard developed the psychotherapeutic model Islamic Counselling in the mid-1990s. Following years of apprenticeship under a Sufi Shaykh, they were given ithn (permission) to take this work based on the Islamic science of Nafsiyat (the science of the self), forward to enable spiritual and psychological growth and wellbeing. Between 1998 and now, they have developed a series of accredited qualifications in Islamic Counselling, up to and beyond the professional diploma.  As well as training they are practitioners, supervisors and have established and developed services. Abdullah Maynard wrote the 2007 Muslim Mental Health Scoping Report for the Department of Health and Social Care. He is also the chairperson of the Lateef Project, a major Islamic counselling service whose work includes serving NHS key workers and Grenfell Tower Residents. Sabnum Dharamsi established a social media group on Islamic Counselling which has now over 3,000 followers. For many years, Sabnum was Chair of the Muslim Women and Community Helpline and runs regular training for the Muslim Youth Helpline. 


Registration Fees:

BPS Concession/Student Members


Students (Non-members)

£40 - If you a student and not a member of the BPS you can use this promotional code PSYCHSTU on the basket page to get this reduced rate

Psychotherapy Section members


BPS members


Non-BPS members



Have a query?

Contact us at [email protected]

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