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Showcasing hope and healing through art

This Working Group asked clients and family partners to share art that represents healing to create a more welcoming environment at the Forensic Psychiatric Clinic in Nanaimo. Learn why this meaningful work earned them a PHSA+ Award.
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​Journey mapping was an innovative approach led by the BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services’ (BCMHSUS) Patient Experience and Community Engagement team to delve into the intricate emotional, mental and social experiences clients at Forensic Psychiatric Clinics undergo as they navigate the intake, treatment and discharge processes. As a result of these sessions, a gap was identified with clients expressing the need for more therapeutic space.

With this issue coming to light, Shelley Birchard, former regional clinic manager at the Nanaimo Forensic Psychiatric Clinic promptly reached out to the Patient Experience and Community Engagement team to begin the work to address this gap. The “What does healing look like to you? Working Group was then established, with a goal to improve patient experience through art, asking former patients and patient family partners to submit artistic expressions of healing in their lives.  

Thanks to a local partnership with James Heap,  forensic psychiatric nurse, along with the contribution of countless others, 12 art pieces now live in the Nanaimo Forensic Psychiatric Clinic ranging from paintings to poetry to 3D design. Next to each work is a brief statement, which speaks to the artist’s healing journey. With these new additions, the team hopes the space will start to feel warmer and more inviting.

"Westcoast Sunrise" painted by Roni

"Art has always provided me a way to express myself when words fail me. Being given the honour to share my work brings me the hope it will inspire others to feel safe in sharing their journey in ways beyond words." – Roni, patient partner and artist.

Compilation of artworks by Kayla

"This project helped heal another part of me. To use my art to comfort and welcome others to a space of healing… I call myself an artist now." - Kayla Sankey, patient partner and artist, member of the Tsimshian Nation.

The "What does healing look like to you?" Working Group is made of members from the Patient Experience and Community Engagement team, Forensic Psychiatric Clinic in Nanaimo as well as client and family partners.


  • Cheryl Nichols, (former) forensic liaison, Forensic Psychiatric Services
  • James Heap, forensic psychiatric nurse, Forens​ic Psychiatric Services (pictured above; top right)​
  • Kati​e Mai, director, Patient Experience and Community Engagement (pictured above; bottom left)
  • ​​Michelle VanNice, family partner​
  • ​Philip Kou, patient partner​
  • Sandy Tedjasubrata, advisor, Patient Experience and Community Engagement (pictured above; bottom right)
  • Shelley Birchard, (former) regional clinical manager, Nanaimo and Victoria Forensic Regional Clinics
  • Stephanie Mcdermott, (former) forensic liaison, Forensic Psychiatric Services

Since clients were at the center of the project, the team wanted to work with people who had experiences with BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services. 

"Healing", representing the Phoenix rising from the universe."I feel deeply grateful for being able to contribute my work and insights as a member of this art group, and I hope that by becoming involved, I can help patient partners share and gift their rich and diverse stories, talents and experiences, ultimately with the intention of healing the trauma they all invariably faced," Philip Kou, patient partner.

The program not only helps make the clinic more welcoming for current clients but also gives past patients a therapeutic opportunity to reflect on their mental health and create a physical manifestation of their healing.

"Art works in many mysterious ways. During confusing or calm times, what a comfort to come upon an expression that says ‘I get you.’ With patient-created art in places of healing, this is a possibility for everyone who passes by. There is the bonus of the style, flair, and interest it adds to the atmosphere. My son was a patient who has schizophrenia, and he still works to maintain his health. I am so grateful for the medical help my son received that it is a genuine pleasure to be able to be a part of this community," Michelle VanNice, family partner.

Programs like this represent beacons of hope for patients and their families, supporting clinical environments to become safer, warmer places for recovery. After hearing that the program was uplifting from clients, the team is hoping to expand to forensic regional clinics across the province.

"People living with mental health, substance use, and criminal justice involvement are a highly stigmatized, highly underserved population – many who have experienced trauma and systemic oppression. Through this project, we aim to disrupt this narrative and showcase hope, healing, and trauma-informed care," said Sandy Tedjasubrata w​​ho was part of the working group and is an advisor with the Patient Experience and Community Engagement team.​

Congratulations to the "What does healing look like to you?" Working Group on their PHSA+ Award!

About the PHSA+ Awards program

The PHSA+ Awards are part of an internal recognition program that celebrates teams and individuals who bring our PHSA values to life in the workplace. They go above and beyond to serve patients and families across B.C. Read about the other PHSA+ award recipients for 2023.

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