What is Art Therapy?
Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of communication.
Clients who are referred to an art therapist need not have previous experience or skill in art, the art therapist is not primarily concerned with making an aesthetic or diagnostic assessment of the client’s image. The overall aim of its practitioners is to enable a client to effect change and growth on a personal level through the use of art materials in a safe and facilitating environment.
The relationship between the therapist and the client is of central importance, but art therapy differs from other psychological therapies in that it is a three way process between the client, the therapist and the image or artefact. Thus it offers the opportunity for expression and communication and can be particularly helpful to people who find it hard to express their thoughts and feelings verbally.
Art therapists have a considerable understanding of art processes underpinned by a sound knowledge of therapeutic practice, and work with both individuals and groups in a variety of residential and community based settings, for example: adult mental health, learning disabilities, child and family centres, palliative care and the prison service. The diversity of these areas of work is reflected in the number of special interest groups that have developed in affiliation with the British Association of Art Therapists. More detailed information about these specialist areas can be obtained on request from the Association.
The art therapist’s work is sometimes challenging and calls for skill and sensitivity; it follows that those who wish to pursue a career in art therapy should be mature, flexible people. ‘The training course, which combines theoretical and experiential work, is a Masters Degree to be completed over two years full time or three years part time. Applicants must have a first degree in art, although other graduates are sometimes considered, and some proper experience of working in an area of health, education or social care.
Art therapy is a diverse profession and it is important to ensure that those who practice it are maintaining the standards that we as a professional body uphold. Art Therapists, along with Drama and Music Therapists need to register with the Health Professions Council.
The British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) is the professional organisation for art therapists in the United Kingdom and has its own Code of Ethics of Professional Practice. Comprising of 20 regional groups, a European section and an international section, it maintains a comprehensive directory of qualified art therapists and works to promote art therapy in the UK.