Vicky Nicholls


Vicky Nicholls completed a Master of Art therapy at La Trobe University. She was employed as a
Senior Art Therapist at the Austin CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) working
with children, young people and their families experiencing significant difficulties with issues such
as depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders and ADHD. During her time there she developed
a particular interest in attachment and the effects of trauma. In 2011 Vicky was appointed as a
Therapeutic Specialist, supporting young people living in out-of-home care as a result of neglect
and abuse. In 2012 she was offered an opportunity to work with VACCA – (Victorian Aboriginal
Child Care Agency) to develop a therapeutic program for Aboriginal children in care.
Vicky has supervised students on placement from the La Trobe Art Therapy program since 2001
and has supervised other allied health professionals and art therapists in the workplace. She has
been a sessional lecturer at La Trobe University in the Master of Art Therapy course since 2001.
She also runs a private practice where she works with young people and adults, and provides
supervision for art therapists and other health professionals.

Q. What motivated you to become an arts therapist?

My first love is art and I studied visual arts when I finished school. At that time I was not aware of art therapy at all. I did not want to be an artist as a profession, I knew I wanted to be more involved with people and contribute to growth and change, but not as an art teacher. I was also very interested in psychology but for many years the two worlds did not meet for me. When I did discover art therapy I instantly knew it was the perfect union of my two loves. I am fascinated by our internal experiences of life, bringing awareness to how we choose to live and art is the perfect medium to explore in playful ways.Vicky

Q.Where did you train? What is your most memorial experience while training – good or bad?

I trained at La Trobe University whilst the course was in a state of flux. When I started Warren Lett was still leading the course so there was a very phenomenological approach. When Warren left Peg Levine stepped up to co-ordinate the course before Nancy Slater who was, very psychodynamic in her approach, commenced in that role the following year. This meant that my training was enriched by theories from very different frameworks and very different practitioners. This left me with an openness to a variety of ideas which I now really appreciate.

Q. Who has most inspired you or influenced your work as an arts therapist?

My clients!  Although I find the work of many art therapists inspirational, if in my own work I had not seen a capacity for art therapy to help navigate through the dark struggles of life I would not have been able to continue. It is the magical process that I see unfolding each time in a unique way that sustains my passion for this work.

Q. Are you employed as an arts therapist? Are you self-employed? Are you employed as something else but practice art therapy in your work? 

I set up my private practice four years ago, it has grown slowly but steadily. In the past I have been employed as an art therapist at a CAMHS and with a couple of child and family welfare agencies. That work also entailed some case management work.

Q. How is your work funded?

I am not eligible to offer any rebates so my clients must be able to pay my fee. I always have a few clients who I am seeing at very reduced rate.

IMG_2142Q.What populations do you predominantly work with?

I have worked and continue to work predominantly with children and families over the years, currently I am working a lot with young adults and older women. I have a particular interest in trauma but I also work a lot with people experiencing anxiety.

Q. How much of your working week is clinical work?

I work in my private practice 3 days a week.

Q. Where or who you really like to work with?

I love all the work I do but in particular I love variety. Working in private practice has been perfect for me from that perspective as I find each person I work with is so unique and interesting.

Q. What key theories influence your practice and how do you incorporate these into your daily work?

Psychodynamics – attachment theory in particular helps me understand the influence of the person’s early life has on them currently. Phenomenology is a wonderful way of always coming back to looking at what the art has to tell us. Neuroscience teaches us how we unconsciously get stuck and how we can get unstuck. The expressive therapies continuum gives me a framework for understanding my clients preferred way of using art materials, being in the world and also in how to encourage and stimulate growth. Humanistic psychology validates a supportive authentic approach and way of being with my clients.

Q. Do you practice your own art? If so what and who has influenced you? 

In the past I painted, mainly with oils and drew a lot also. Mainly figurative work, very naive. It was usually a quite literal expression of my experiences. Over the last 7 years my work has become more abstract, very detailed work, zentangle type. Recently I have just started botanical art classes. I love the detail and focus it requires. I find it very meditative and soothing.IMG_2147

Q. What other interests do you enjoy when you are not working?

I love yoga, gardening, walking, reading, movies, and cooking delicious food.

Q. What has been your biggest challenge while training or working as an arts therapist?

Believing in myself. At times I have had moments of self doubt and think I have nothing to offer.

Q. What keeps you motivated?

My motivation is sustained by seeing change for my clients, without this I could not continue. I also find making my own art and reading extensively inspiring and motivating.

Q. What significant changes have you noticed within the arts therapy profession over the time you have been involved?

There are more arts therapists, more people know about arts therapy and value it.

Q. What is on your “wish list” either for yourself as an arts therapist or for the profession?

I would like to see arts therapy recognised as an allied health professional along with psychology, occupational therapy, social work etc.

Q. What has been your biggest set-back?

The incremental strain and stress I experienced at the CAMHS where I worked in the realm of paper work and bureaucracy. It was no longer a place where I was able to practice in a way I believed in. I felt very compromised professionally. However it was not really a set back as it has ultimately lead me going into private practice which is very rewarding. At the time it felt like an enormous leap of faith and was very frightening after so many years of security.

Q. What single thing has had the biggest impact on your career, good or bad?

I was incredibly lucky landing my first job from my Master’s placement. This gave me an opportunity to work for over 10 years with an amazing group of mental health clinicians from different disciplines who were very generous with themselves and sharing their knowledge. They embraced my work and made me feel valued.

IMG_2143Q. What professional bodies do you belong to?

Australia & New Zealand Arts Therapy Association – ANZATA

Q. What strength do you have that has been most valuable to you as an arts therapist?

Tenacity, flexibility, the knowledge that although I think I know things really I know very little.

Q. What would you say is the biggest myth out there regarding arts therapy?

That it isn’t based in science, that it is airy fairy stuff.


Vicky has a webpage under development. You will be able to link to it here when it is available.




  1. Art and Creative Writing Group Therapy – Early 2016 “Altered Book Project” by Karen Robinson | ido art karen robinson - May 29, 2016

    […] therapy sessions with Mind Australia as a participant.  Our art therapist facilitator – Vicky Nicholls had us work on a project which required us to create our own special ‘altered book’.  […]

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