Art therapists use visual art media to help people who may struggle to communicate verbally to express their feelings and confront difficult emotional issues.
Those who are referred to an art therapist don't need to have experience of - or be any good at - art. The aim is to use art as a medium to enable them to communicate and to help with awareness and self-development in a safe environment.
ResponsibilitiesAs an art therapist, you'll need to:
- assess the needs of the client by listening and providing guidance
- work creatively with various client groups in a therapeutic setting, ensuring a safe and secure environment
- enable clients to explore their artwork and the process they used to create it
- assess and understand the feelings or temperament of others
- constructively challenge the behaviour and attitude of your clients
- attend meetings and case conferences to share ideas, expertise and good practice
- keep up to date with administration tasks
- maintain art therapy space and materials
- receive support and discuss ideas in individual supervision
- explore opportunities for work where they may not currently exist
- present a case to other professionals on reasons for employing an art therapist
- keep up to date with developments in the profession by attending seminars, lectures, and workshops.
QualificationsTo practise as an art therapist you must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). In order to register, you must successfully complete an HCPC-approved postgraduate qualification in art therapy or art psychotherapy. All UK approved courses lead to a professional qualification and eligibility to apply for registration with the HCPC and membership of the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT).
You'll usually need a first degree in fine art, visual arts or art and design to get a place on a postgraduate course. However, other graduates with experience of working in health, education or social care may be accepted if they have a commitment to the practice of the visual arts. Relevant degree subjects include:
- occupational therapy
- social work.
Course providers will require you to have experience of artistic practice and will ask to see a portfolio of recent artwork.
Full-time postgraduate courses usually take two years with part-time courses lasting three years. As part of the training, you'll undertake personal therapy and a clinical placement.
There are a range of introductory and foundation courses available, aimed at those thinking about a career in art therapy. For details, see BAAT - Introduction and Foundation Courses.
All students are subject to a Disclosure and Barring Service check.
- children, adolescent and adult services
- community centres
- drug and alcohol dependency treatment units
- education services
- hospices and other therapeutic centres
- mental health projects
- museums and galleries
- the NHS and the private health sector
- the prison and probation service
- private practice work
- schools (pre-school, primary and secondary)
- school support centres (special and mainstream)
- social services.
Work experienceYou'll need to have at least a year's relevant work experience (either paid or voluntary) for entry on to a postgraduate training course. This can include working with vulnerable people, such as children with learning or behavioural challenges, the elderly, homeless or adults with mental ill health, in a professional capacity in a variety of settings such as health, education or youth work.
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