Dr Marie-Christina Virago

Dr Marie-Christina Virago

Speaker

My original training was in paediatric and general nursing and medical laboratory work. I was involved as a laboratory technician in research into melanoma, avian lymphoma, human leukaemia and early bone marrow and other organ transplant surgery. I later trained in drug and alcohol counselling, TA and Gestalt, couple counselling, critical incident support, grief and trauma counselling and undertook studies in visual arts, Anthroposophical education and a degree in Anthropology. I went on to undertake training in art psychotherapy in the UK (Sheffield), where I chose to work in psycho-oncology rather than mental health. I returned to Australia and set up a private practice specialising in grief and trauma resolution, working particularly with children and adult survivors of sexual abuse. The works of Jung and Susan Bach, in particular, inform my art psychotherapy practice, as does an understanding of psychoneuroimmunology. I was awarded a PhD from the University of Newcastle for research investigating the impact of shock and long-term distress, and resolution through art psychotherapy, on immune function amongst people with melanoma. The greatest damage occurs if there is a sense of complete powerlessness and inability to escape; one can shift perspective and either gain or retain a sense of personal agency which in turn improves resilience. In the research project it was demonstrated that immunological function responded to psychological content of the sessions and improved over time as a result of the engaging in Art psychotherapy.