of Art Therapy
In psychotherapy all communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is two-way, between the therapist and the client. In art therapy communication includes a third dimension, the artwork.
Young people communicate many different feelings and experiences in art therapy and the artwork made in art therapy is equally diverse. In order to promote freedom of expression the Art Therapy in School Service works non-directively, which means that generally we do not offer children suggestions about what to make or topics to explore. This enables young people to explore whatever feelings or experiences they feel comfortable with at their own pace.
The artwork made in art therapy is not analysed or interpreted by the art therapist. The therapist and the client learn the meaning of the artwork for the client through dialogue about the process and the artwork itself.
Generally the artwork made in art therapy is stored confidentially within the school throughout the duration of therapy. There are several reasons for this. Artwork made in art therapy can be returned to for reflection and childrens feelings and understanding of their artwork and experiences can change over time. Sometimes the artwork holds difficult feelings and experiences for children. By keeping the artwork in art therapy these feelings and experiences are also contained safely within art therapy. Once feelings are contained the young person can safely work towards understanding them.
Young people do not need to be 'good at art' to participate in art therapy. Children who are able to engage with the art materials and form a relationship with the art therapist may benefit from art therapy. An initial assessment period of four to six weeks enables the art therapist to determine each young person's suitability for group or individual work.
Art therapists are trained to facilitate both non-verbal and verbal communication through the creative process and the therapeutic relationship. We have an understanding of psychotherapeutic theory and practice as well as child psychology and development.
In addition to facilitating art therapy sessions, the art therapist is responsible for keeping written records including Art Therapy Reviews each term and liasing with members of staff in schools as well as other professionals such as social workers and CAMHS teams. Art therapists may also attend multidisciplinary meetings within the school and outside agencies to provide feedback on the child and the progress of art therapy. We try to involve parents/guardians as much as possible and offer meetings at the beginning of therapy and during other crucial stages in the therapy.
In situations when a child has disclosed information relevant to Child Protection, the art therapist is legally obligated to refer this information onto appropriate school staff and social services. Obviously this must be approached quite sensitively and generally the art therapist will let the child know when they will be sharing this information and whenever possible work towards supporting the child in self-disclosure to the appropriate authorities.
The art therapy training is comprised of theoretical, experiential and clinical modules. Students learn art therapy and psychoanalytical theory, basic psychology, psychiatry and human development, and other issues relevant to practice. Concurrently students engage in the image-making process in a variety of settings including workshops, personal studio time and groups. And in the clinical module students participate in year-long placements where they begin to practice art therapy with regular weekly supervision
Throughout the art therapy training students also participate in private personal therapy. This gives students first-hand experience of a therapeutic relationship and what it is like to be the client in therapy as well as the different kinds of therapies available or styles of working.
Many art therapy students have an art training although some have degrees in relevant fields such as psychology or education. Applicants to the various art therapy training programmes must demonstrate an ability to engage with the art materials and the creative process by submitting a portfolio of their artwork. Additionally many training programmes require experience of working in the health, education or community sectors.
The art therapy training can be emotionally and mentally demanding and requires a certain level of emotional maturity. As a result the minimum entrance age for many of the programmes is 24 years.
For more information about training in art therapy go to the Links page
Individual supervision is normally held for 50 minutes to one hour and group supervision lasts from one hour to one to one and a half hours depending on the size of group. Artwork produced during the art therapy sessions is often brought into the supervision session, which helps both the supervisor and the therapist to understand and analyse what happened in that session and discuss how to work with the clients in future sessions.
Clinical supervision also gives us an opportunity to explore the dynamics of the work place. Working as an art therapist in education can be an isolating experience. We are not full-time members of staff and frequently we provide schools with their first experience of art therapy. Therefore it is an informative time for us to share our difficulties, support each other and discuss different ways of integrating art therapy and ourselves as practitioners within the education system.