Linking art and psychology

  • Holistic health: Hannah King has just completed an internship working as a psychology assistant with Solstice (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The link between art and psychology may not be obvious to the uninitiated, but it was what set Hannah King off on her professional journey into mental health.

The ninth-generation Bermudian graduated with a bachelor of arts in art and architecture from Middlebury College, Vermont, in 2013, and has just completed a nine-month internship, as a psychology assistant at Bermuda’s holistic wellness centre, Solstice. As she prepares to begin her doctorate in clinical psychology this autumn, Ms King explained how her art education sparked an interest in psychology.

“Artists are multidimensional; we talk about maths and science. At university, we had an independent class where we often talked about memory and how we transfer our memories into our artwork.

“Every time you interpret a memory, it is reorganised. If you continually interpret a memory in a negative way, you will have a negative perspective.

“You can really manipulate and control how you view your memories in your life; that is how the neurons in our brain grow every day.

“I was young and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but that was the first time I was really gripped by something. I was fascinated.”

Ms King, a graduate of Bermuda High School, is still summing up which speciality she will enter after completing her doctorate, but she does have several interests in mind.

As an avid sportswoman, she spent much of her childhood representing Bermuda in gymnastics. Her love of sports contributed to an interest in sport psychology while she was studying for a master’s degree at the University of Denver from 2016 to 2018.

“I was a springboard diver and had suffered several shoulder injuries,” she explained.

“I worked with a sports psychologist because I was not good at competing; I would show up on the day and fall apart. I became fascinated by the mental aspect of sports.

“The difference between first and second at the Olympics isn’t a physical difference. It is mental. These guys are swimming the same times, but, it is about how they can mentally show up on the day.”

Ms King also has an interest in brain injuries, having recently gained work experience at Craig Hospital, Colorado, which specialises in spinal cord and traumatic brain injury. She is also interested in integrative health, a relatively new healthcare system that provides mental and physical services under one roof.

“I worked with athletes on how to recover from injuries and manage them while they are training. I also have a family member who sustained a brain injury, I have seen the effects that it can have.

“With integrative health, you have the clinicians, the psychologists, mental health workers, doctors and nurses all talking together about a patient and can refer to each other. It is a far more efficient system, I would love for the Bermuda Hospitals Board to consider adopting it.”

Ms King said that her time with Solstice has further influenced her goals and ambitions as a psychologist.

“I am still interested in integrative health, but now I am working with clients who are managing personality disorders.

“I am getting supervision and getting trained in new areas and so it has altered some of my goals. I expect them to change in the future as well.

“I do think that working in Bermuda has really given me a lot of confidence in the standards of mental healthcare, on the island.

“I was so happy to see that Solstice is providing supervision, maintaining confidentiality and privacy, working with doctors on the island and working as a team. They also invest in the community, so our clinicians have to take 10 per cent of their clients as pro bono, or reduced rate. We are not just looking at high-end clients, but making sure that everyone gets a session, which has been eye-opening.

“The biggest reason I chose the doctorate programme at Loyola University Maryland, is that Baltimore is a diverse city, and offers experience in working with lower socio-economic populations.

“There is a massive crisis going on in terms of the disparity between races and economic background and the clinic supports pro bono clients. It is fantastic training.”

Ms King says she would like to return to Bermuda one day to share her expertise.