The Art of Silence: Researching the Role of Silence in Nature Based Expressive Arts

  • Alexandra Tegart European Graduate School
Keywords: aesthetics of silence, deep ecology, poetic ecology, opiod crisis, eco-aesthetics, expressive arts


This paper journeys into the aesthetics of silence in nature-based expressive arts practice and research. Explored is how nature-based expressive arts (EXA) therapy can help cultivate an embodied sense of silence to nourish and support frontline mental health workers in the Vancouver Downtown Eastside, easing the stresses of assisting a population in the midst of an opioid and overdose crisis. The transformational effects of EXA are discussed as they relate to a short series of workshops with frontline mental health workers from Vancouver’s PHS Community Services Society. We collectively experienced how the phenomenon of silence can help provide a rich resource to care providers and, in turn, inform the nature of our research in vulnerable communities.


Author Biography

Alexandra Tegart, European Graduate School

Alexandra Tegart received her MA in expressive arts therapy from the European Graduate School, Switzerland. She is currently a counsellor based in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. She is continually inspired and motivated by the power of the arts to heal and humbled again and again by the resilience of the human heart.


Atkins, S. S., & Snyder, M. A. (2017). Nature-based expressive arts therapy: Integrating the expressive arts and ecotherapy. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley.

Barone, T., & Eisner, E. (2012). Arts based research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Brend, Y. (2016) Overdose crisis is 'our Ebola', says Dr. Mark Tyndall. Retrieved from: centre-for-excellence-mark-tyndall-1.3624318

Campbell, L., Boyd, N., & Culbert, L. (2009). A thousand dreams: Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and the fight for its future. Vancouver, BC: Greystone Books.

Cage, J. (1961). Silence. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Central City Foundation (2017). On the frontlines of the opioid crisis: How community

organizations and their staff are coping. Retrieved from:


City of Vancouver (2015). Annual procurement report. Retrieved from:

Coroner’s Service of B.C. (May 15, 2019) Illicit drug overdose deaths in BC January 1, 2009 - March, 2019. Retrieved from:

Deleuze, G. (1988). Foucault. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Retrieved from:

Eberhart, H., Atkins, S. & Knill, P. (2014). Presence and process in expressive arts work: At the edge of wonder. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley.

Espen Stoknes, P. (2017). Why ecophilosophy and expressive arts? In Levine, S. K. and Levine, E. G. (Eds.), New developments in expressive arts therapy: The play of poeisis. (pp. 258-260). London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Heinemann, L. V., Heinemann, T. (2017). Burnout research: emergence and scientific investigation of a contested diagnosis. Sage Open. pp.1-12.

Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and recovery. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Kellen-Taylor, M. (1998). Imagination and the world: a call for ecological expressive therapies. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 25(5), 303–311. https//

Kenny, G. (2012). An introduction to Moustakas’s heuristic method. Nurse Researcher, 19(3),

–11. https//

Knill, P. J. (2005). Foundations for theory and practice. In Knill, P. J., Levine, E. G. & Levine, S. K. (Eds.), Principles and practice of expressive arts therapy: Toward a therapeutic aesthetics. (pp. 75-169). London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Knill, P. J. (2006). Can terror be beautified? Poiesis: a journal of the arts and communication. 8, 114-117.

Knill, P. J., Barba, H., & Fuchs, M. (2003). Minstrels of soul: Intermodal expressive arts therapy. Toronto, ON: EGS Press.

Levine, E. G. (2005). The practice of expressive arts therapy: Training, therapy and supervision. In Knill, P. J., Levine, E. G. & Levine, S. K. (Eds.), Principles and practice of expressive arts therapy: Toward a therapeutic aesthetics. (pp. 171-255). London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Levine, P. (2010). In an unspoken voice: how the body releases trauma and restores goodness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Levine, S. K. (2012). Nature as a work of art: Towards a poetic ecology. Poiesis: a journal of the arts and

communication. 14, 186-193.

Levine, S. K. (2005). The philosophy of expressive arts therapy: Poeisis as a response to the world. In Knill, P. J.,

Levine, E. G. & Levine, S. K. (Eds.), Principles and practice of expressive arts therapy: Toward a therapeutic aesthetics. (pp. 15-73). London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Levine, S. K. (2015). The Tao of poiesis: Expressive arts therapy and Taoist philosophy. Creative Arts in Education and Therapy, 1(1), 15–25. https//

Lupick, T. (2017). Fighting for space: How a group of drug users transformed one city's struggle with addiction. Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp.

Nelson, M. P. (2008) Deep ecology. Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy. 18(8), pp. 206-221. Retrieved from:

Reynolds, V. (2013). “Leaning in” as imperfect allies in community work. Narrative and Conflict: Explorations in Theory and Practice, 1(1), 53. https//

Reynolds, V. (2011) Resisting burnout with justice doing. The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work. No.4, pp. 27-45. Retrieved from: ngburnoutwithjustice-doingdulwich.pdf

Rumi, J. (n.d.). A great wagon. Retrieved from:

Seccia, S. (2017). We’re Losing what our SRO’s can do right. Retrieved from :

Schroeder, B. (2016). Spectacular silence: reflections on nihilism, violence and awakening. Four By Three Magazine. Retrieved from:

Sontag, S. (2002). Styles of radical will. London, UK: Penguin Books.

Whyte, D., (2003) Sometimes. Everything is waiting for you. Retrieved from: is-waiting-for-you/