Holloway, Pete

Tilting at giants: the effects of austerity on the psychodynamic tradition in public health provision – a challenge for arts therapists

Pete Holloway

Over the last decade, following the financial crash of 2008-09, most European economies have seen the imposition of austerity budgets of one form or another. Funding and investment in public services and mental health services in particular have been affected as a result, despite the increase in public health and mental health issues that arise as a consequence of ‘austerity economics’. From large-scale national health provision (such as the UK NHS) to social insurance schemes (favoured within continental Europe) to the individualised insurance schemes (promoted by US insurance companies), the provision of mental health services has seen a gradual erosion of long-term therapeutic interventions aimed at treating the deep tensions and contradictions of the human experience. Instead, we have seen an incremental increase in short-term, symptom-focused interventions that have been sanctioned by insurance companies and promoted through the ‘evidence-based’ ideology of public health providers.

This presentation will argue that such a trend represents an attack on the depth of thought that is embedded in the psychodynamic tradition in favour of more ‘simplistic’ interventions such as CBT/DBT and other standardised protocol-based approaches, but at the same time (through its appropriation of ‘consumer choice’ arguments) opens up opportunities for the arts therapies to evidence their ability to combine complex psychodynamic insights with focused embodied practice, through which we can provide a unique contribution to the public health and mental he alth agenda and preserve a tradition of humanistic, holistic interventions.



Pete Holloway has been a Lecturer on the MA Dramatherapy programme at Roehampton University since its inception in 1993 and is also currently employed as a Consultant Dramatherapist and Clinical Lead for a specialist psychological therapies unit within community mental health service in the UK NHS.


Recent Publications

Holloway, P. & Seebohm, H. (2011). When Worlds Elide: culture, identity and dialogue in multi-disciplinary settings. Dramatherapy Journal, Routledge Volume 1 Spring 2011

Dokter, D., Holloway, P. & Seebohm, H. (eds) (2011).  Dramatherapy and Destructiveness – Creating the Evidence-base, Playing with Thanatos. Routledge 2011

Recent Conference Presentations

2017: Holloway, Seebohm & Seymour – ‘Thesis, antithesis, synthesis: new articulations of stasis and change’ Ecarte, Krakow.

2016: Holloway & Seebohm - ‘The world turned inside out - politics, professionalism and therapeutic process’.  Keynote presentation, Dramatherapy Wales Conference, November.

2013: Holloway – ‘Complex Trauma - the battle to be human, the war against terror and shame’ – Inaugural Annual Lecture for FCS Therapeutic Community Project, Akron, Ohio August.