School of Creative

Teh Shan Li

Teh Shan Li

MA Art Therapy
Class of 2022

Shan Li has prior experience working with the mental health population both within a hospital (Institute of Mental Health, Singapore) and in a community setting. She has embarked on art psychotherapy training to integrate her interest in artistic expression with the knowledge gained from her Bachelor of Arts (Double Major) in Psychology and Sociology.

Through the MA Art Therapy programme, she had the opportunity to expand her clinical experience, providing therapeutic services to abused domestic workers at a shelter, as well as older adults receiving palliative care within a hospice setting.

Shan Li uses her personal art practice for self care, documenting her subjective personal experiences and emotions. Her art also revolves around expressing psychological concepts as evidence of her developing professional identity. Shan Li prefers making art in a tactile, sensorial manner – creating textured, organic and holistic art forms inspired by nature.


To hold and to be held
Cloth container with sequins, acrylic gems and plastered base
87 x 87 x 15 cm

To hold and to be held is part of a series of increasingly larger container artworks by the artist that parallels her growing capacity to contain and to hold. Inspired by her clinical experience in a palliative care setting, the artist creates a personal safe space, where she can fit in a foetal position, to feel held and grounded. It is a metaphoric place for her to rest and release whatever she is holding, either for herself or on behalf of others.

The colour white depicts themes of sensory rest, bereavement, peace and silence, while the holistic form conveys themes of rebirth. The interweaving of old and new shredded cloth mimics the artist's transformation and developing identity, while the reflective interior that shines from within symbolises inner strength and resilience. By inviting the audience to peer into the container, the artist illustrates how the MA Art Therapy programme encourages introspection and the illumination of the unconscious.

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Thesis abstract

Illuminating the concept of holding within art therapy in a hospice setting: A qualitative inquiry from a Chinese Singaporean perspective

The aim of this qualitative practitioner-based research is to explore the ways in which the concept of holding might be manifested within art therapy practices in a hospice setting in Singapore. Reflective process notes, clinical documentation and the art therapist’s post-session response art were gathered as data from individual art therapy sessions with terminally ill older adults residing at the hospice. Data was analysed through a self-reflective stance, taking into consideration the art therapist’s psychodynamic training, theoretical stance and cultural identity as a Singaporean. Findings were presented in the form of personal narrative and clinical case examples, illustrating the five different ways that therapeutic holding surfaced within the clinical art therapy practice at a local hospice. The results not only made sense of the many ways therapeutic holding had transpired but also reinforced the idea that therapeutic holding is made up of two components: the creation of a safe holding environment and the regulation process by the therapist and/or art material.

Clinical internship

Jan–May 2021
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME)
Art therapist trainee
Conducted group and open studio art therapy sessions for vulnerable domestic workers.

Aug 2021–May 2022
Assisi Hospice
Art therapist trainee
● Conducted individual, group and open studio art therapy sessions for older adults with life-limiting illnesses.
● Conducted open studio art therapy session to facilitate staff well-being.