McDermid-Thomas, Adrienne

The Magpies’ Nest: working in nature with forensic mental health sevice users


Adrienne McDermid-Thomas


This presentation will focus on moving from working within the walls of a medium secure unit to a garden space and the experience and benefits of working without walls. It will capture the experience of the art psychotherapist who - after years of working indoors - ventured into the unknown and, in the process, learned to trust in the resources of the garden and of the people facilitating and participating in the group.

The art therapist teamed up with an experienced medical herbalist, a local community garden and the John Muir Trust to deliver a programme of outdoors art psychotherapy for people who are returning to the community (and to a natural environment) after many months or years of being locked up. The presentation will describe the Scottish forensic mental health context, introduce the clients and their stories and will take a look at what happened in the garden on Monday mornings across the seasons; in wind, snow, rain and sunshine. It will include rich feedback from clients and will reflect on the potential benefits of moving away from paintbrushes, chalks and acrylics for art psychotherapists and for those who may be suffering from a type of nature deficit disorder in their lives.

The presentation will consider the potential benefits of the work in the context of the Recovery approach that is fully integrated within Scottish mental health services and will make links with the conceptual framework CHIME Connectedness, Hope, Identity, Meaning and Empowerment (Leamy et al 2018).




Adrienne McDermid-Thomas has been a practicing art therapist since graduating from Queen Margaret University in 2004.  For the most part, Adrienne has worked as an art therapist within a medium secure unit, providing individual and group sessions for patients within a forensic mental health context. The recovery approach has been of central interest. 

Since 2010, Adrienne has spent part of her working week as a lecturer in art psychotherapy, wearing a number of hats within the MSc in Art Psychotherapy at Queen Margaret University: Group Supervisor, Inter-personal Learning Group Facilitator, Professional Practice Tutor. She is currently programme leader.

Adrienne is also a mother who has rediscovered her love of the natural world through returning to the beaches, woodlands and moors of Scotland with her children and is becoming increasingly interested in how we can work as art therapists without walls and even without art materials.


Recent Publications

2017, November: The Magpies’ Nest – International Lecture and Workshop at Universidad del Desarrollo, Santiago, Chile

2013-2016: Building Bridges: An allied health professional practice education programme at Alzheimer Scotland – Paper and Poster for Alzhiemer Scotland.