FROM A BRITISH PERSPECTIVE
A career in Art Therapy?
This section includes details of the work which Art Therapists undertake, the qualifications they need, State Registration requirements, employment opportunities and membership of BAAT.
What is an Art Therapist?
State Registered Art Therapists are trained in the psychology of mark making and symbolism, in non-verbal communication, psychotherapeutic understanding of child development and family dynamics, and the importance of boundaries. They recognise that image making is an extremely potent activity and aim to use their visual and psychotherapeutic literacy to enable change with those with whom they work. The ways in which they do this vary according to the client/patient group or individual, the context, and the therapist. There is, however, always an emphasis on creativity and the therapeutic relationship.
In the late 1940s Art Therapists began to be employed in the NHS, as for many years previously Psychiatrists and Psychoanalysts had found drawings and paintings to be a valuable contribution to the therapeutic process. Between the 1940s and 1960s, many interested artists and art teachers offered their services to hospitals and clinics. Sometimes they encountered a Consultant Psychiatrist or a Medical Superintendent who was enthusiastic about the value of art in treatment; they were then taken onto the staff and paid under whatever establishment was available.
The profession of Art Therapy has developed considerably from this informal beginnin, and now several universities offer training in Art Psychotherapy at post graduate level. The courses are two years full time and three years part time. During training students are required to undertake personal therapy.
In June 1980 the DHSS recognised that no one can be employed as an Art Therapist without having graduated from a recognised course related to the therapeutic application of their skills. In 1990 the National Joint Council for Social Services also recognised the qualification.