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Art Therapy

Art therapy offers the individuals an opportunity to address issues using art materials to express things that are difficult to say in words. Art experience or talent is unecessary.

I am a qualified Art Therapist (MSc) with current membership of the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT link open in a new window) and the Health Professions Council (HPC link open in a new window) and with a great deal of experience in working with a range of client groups. My training was at Queens Margaret University link open in a new window.

For the last year I have worked for Place2Be link open in a new window (an in-school counselling service targeted at children with emotional difficulties) as an art therapist, 2 days per week, in both St Francis and Canal View Primary Schools in Edinburgh. For a year previous to Place2Be, I single-handedly delivered an art therapy programme at Cowgate Centre link open in a new window, a busy homeless centre in Edinburgh, which provides a range of services for homeless people over 16.

As an art therapist in Place2Be I worked intensively, delivering group work, individual therapy and solution-based brief therapy, for children with various problems such as bullying, eating disorders, difficulties relating to peers, impulsive behaviour and outbursts of anger. In each case I gave the child the opportunity to explore through play and creativity the issues that were troubling them, working non-directively and often non-verbally. In all cases it was gratifying to observe improvements during the course of the year and to receive feedback about improved school performance etc. Some children and situations required a slightly more directive approach and I built this into my working style where necessary.

I enjoy working with children, incorporating many non-verbal elements such as dance, music and play into my work. I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with my supervisors and learned a great deal from them. It was particularly useful to learn about their differing therapeutic disciplines and theoretical viewpoints and I was able to incorporate some elements of these with the psychodynamic approach into which I have been primarily educated.

As an art therapist at the Cowgate Centre, I single-handedly delivered an art therapy programme at this busy homeless centre, providing both group work (open and closed) and individual therapy. My practical duties extended to report writing; liaison with external units; maintenance of the art room and the art materials within; and managing, assessing, monitoring and auditing my own caseload. There was no previous framework in place for art therapy and so I planned, initiated and successfully delivered and evaluated the entire programme; my supervisor was a social worker and a useful mentor in many ways.

Forming good working relationships was of key importance, where the chaotic nature of the working environment necessitated a highly forthright and proactive approach to achieving basic therapeutic aims such as session structure. I carried out all assessments and referrals and managed all paperwork on my own. One thing that worked particularly well was an open group, which I initiated in response to poor take up of individual sessions. Some of the work produced was framed and displayed around the building. Users’ self-confidence was boosted by others admiring their work and it enlivened the building and encouraged others to come and paint and to attend the closed group and one-to-one sessions.

At the end of this work I was noted for the work I had done, for the changes seen in the users, the interest I had generated and the motivation I passed on to the staff and users.

Professional development
I have taken professional development seriously, as demonstrated by my attendance and presentation at conferences, as follows:

  • “Art therapy practice and research network, peer review training” British Association of Art Therapists, Glasgow, 2008.
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  • “Sharing best practice in assessment in the arts therapies” British Association of Art Therapists, Edinburgh, 2008; this focused on the issue of assessing client’s suitability for therapy and deciding on appropriate interventions.

  • “Fourth international interdisciplinary CISAT congress of psychology, psychotherapy and literature: The form of the soul; art-therapy as clinical psychology” Naples, 2007. At this conference I gave a presentation entitled "Seeing within: Art therapy in theory and practice in Scotland" (http://www.beaspace.it/terap).
  • “Stories, narratives and digital media in art therapy”, Brighton and Hove Art Therapy Network, Brighton, 2007.

  • “Arts therapies for the child and adolescent” Scottish Arts Therapies Forum, Stirling, 2006.

I have been taking personal therapy, in line with guidelines for practising therapists. As my therapist is a dance and movement therapist she has been able to mentor me in aspects of my practice where a consideration of clients’ movements has been important.

I feel I am learning continuously, exploring suitable ways of working and improving my clinical thinking. These working practices will equip me for maintaining good practice in the future and are necessary to sustain lifelong, self-directed learning skills.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is the therapeutic use of art-making to promote healing and growth in a professional relationship. Art therapists are masters-level professionals who have extensive knowledge of, and are able to practice, counselling theories and techniques with people of all ages, in a variety of settings. The discipline of art therapy draws upon the visual arts, psychotherapy and psychology and is applied within psychiatry, special education, social services and the voluntary sector.

For whom Art Therapy is beneficial

Some mental health providers use art therapy for children as well as adults and male and female sufferers alike, as both a diagnostic tool and as a way to help treat many conditions including the following:

  • eating disorders
  • behavioural problems
  • drug and alcohol abuse
  • socially-defiant adolescents who have been detained and/or put on probation
  • trauma or serious injury
  • chronic illnesses, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease
  • disorders such as depression, abuse-related trauma, and schizophrenia    
  • serious or terminal illness
  • life's challenges and illnesses including change, divorce, depression, bereavement, trauma anwd addictions

Art therapy can assists individuals struggling; through the use of metaphor, art provides a safe format in which one can focus on the management of uncomfortable feelings, increase problem solving skills and enhance self esteem. It offers an opportunity to build a sense of community with others in groups.

About the MSc in Art Therapy

The course was designed to meet the need for trained professionals in the mental health field and in education to assist in the development of persons through self-discovery, self-awareness and personal growth, using art as a catalyst for healing and self-actualisation.

The course consisted of the PgDip in Art Therapy (leading to state registration) plus the masters dissertation. It has qualified me to practise as a Registered Art Therapist with the Health Professions Council.

Personal statement

I have chosen to be an art therapist as I want to be able to help others in a creative way, giving people the opportunity to express themselves through art.

I am a creative person, and I find producing work the most therapeutic way to release anything pent up inside oneself. Art and the practice of the visual has always been an interest in my life; in primary and secondary school Art was one of my best subjects. Since then I have aimed always to study and work in numerous artistic or creative fields aiming to work in communities or with people in need. 

In my work I have acquired experience with a variety of people of all ages with mental health difficulties, disabilities and learning difficulties.  I have noticed how creative activities are of particular benefit to both children and adults experiencing difficulties with written and verbal communication. I enjoy individual activity and I am also very successful in group situations. I enjoy creating environments that are fun, non-threatening, and good to be in. I find that when working in groups, creative thinking and activity enhance communication between individuals and therefore between the whole group.

Drawing, painting, and sculpting help many people to reconcile inner conflicts, release deeply repressed emotions, and foster self-awareness, as well as personal growth. My main focus in my work is to raise individuals’ awareness of both the product and more importantly the creative and developmental process.

In my work I have further developed some of my skills such as patience, good communication skills, good observational skills and a flexible and imaginative approach. I have become a mature, flexible person with a strong commitment to what I do. I have achieved emotional stability, sensitivity to human needs and expressions and a high level of self-awareness. I have grown my interest in helping people to overcome problems. With my MSc I have developed a further interest in psychology, including an understanding of the factors that motivate people. 

Here I'd like to describe the process which has brought me to art therapy.

Art and the practice of the visual has always been a strong interest in my life, and I became a skilled artist through an education which culminated in a BA Hons in Textile Design at Central Saint Martins in London which I completed in 1999. I worked in many art disciplines for example paints, clay, collages, batik, drawing and sculpture, and I had the opportunity to build a strong portfolio. I specialised in printing and towards the end of my course I took the initiative to develop computer-aided design skills, a new and relatively unexplored area at the time.

I went on to work as a textile designer and then as a web designer. I see web design as another outlet for creative expression and through this work I built up a supplementary portfolio of website designs and digital artwork.

In 2003 I took a new direction in which I found I could use my creativity and skills in a more rewarding way. I started to take on teaching work, and I also took up a Postgraduate Certificate in Post-Compulsory Education (PGCE). The courses I taught (and still teach) were built around creative activity, both traditional and computer-based. The main focus in my teaching has been to raise students’ awareness of both the product and more importantly the creative and developmental process.

To summarise how I see myself, I am a qualified art therapist with a background as a skilled artist and trained professional teacher; I am a mature, flexible person with a strong commitment to what I do. I have achieved emotional stability, sensitivity to human needs and expressions and a high level of self-awareness. I have a great interest in helping people to overcome problems.

Why I studied art therapy; my ambitions

Through my teaching I had gained experience of working with learners of all ages with special needs including learning difficulties and mental health difficulties. I had noticed how creative activities are of particular benefit to both children and adults experiencing difficulties with written and verbal communication.

I developed these aspects of my work by training as an art therapist to work more with people that may find hard to express their thoughts and feelings verbally.

I now intend to work in a wide variety of settings, such as drug and rehabilitation programs, prisons and other correctional centres, psychiatric facilities, paediatric wards, mental health clinics, hospices, nursing homes and other geriatric settings, women’s' shelters, and schools. I enjoy the exceptional diversity of clients and settings that this career offers, and I look forward to helping to develop the professional image of the field as a whole.

 

painting

Understanding Art Therapy
link open in a new window "Understanding Art Therapy" as one of the various creative therapeutic approaches to provide emotional support to children. It is a powerpoint presentation created to explain the use of art therapy with children.

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Seeing within: art therapy in theory and practice in Scotland
link open in a new window "Seeing within: art therapy in theory and practice in Scotland" Presentation viewable as a PDF document.
           
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