The “Elephant in the Room” workshop is the first collaboration between Pharmacy and Art Departments at the University of Reading, exploring different approaches to conversations about alcohol use. This ‘Art on Prescription’ workshop was developed in response to the work of Dr Ranjita Dhital, Lecturer in Pharmacy, in collaboration with Dr Kate Allen, Associate Professor in Art.

Students from Art Psychology and Pharmacy attended a lecture on alcohol problems and alcohol brief interventions which was followed by a workshop designed to develop students’ skills to discuss alcohol use in a motivating and empathetic way. Students then role-played conversations about alcohol, taking turns to play the role of someone having a problem with drinking too much and a friend, with the friend using different styles of conversation: ‘confrontational’ and ‘motivational’. As they observed each different style of conversation, the students created a small clay elephant behind their back. This was an experiment to show the response to different conversations by heightening sensory awareness while manipulating the clay.

Some direct links were observed – you can see below an example of an elephant made during a confrontational conversation – squashed and flat, compared to the elephant created during the motivational conversation which is rising up proudly.

The students were invited to gauge their confidence in discussing alcohol before and after the workshop and a positive response was recorded, with most agreeing that the experience had created a lasting memory of the types of conversations that could be initiated.