This blog details my journey from being interested in Art Therapy to wanting to pursue a career in the area in the near future. I’ve been extremely lucky to have the support and opportunity to find out more about Art Therapy and the role of the therapist in this 5 day foundation course.
For an art therapist the image is always the starting point to working with a client. Understanding and knowing a client is key to working in an effective way with them, as well as understanding their psychological challenges an art therapist also has to take into account the types of materials they use, whether the client can/is willing to get messy, how they’re feeling in that exact moment, they’re creative background and much more.
First and foremost I have to thank MDNW & Gallery Oldham for supporting me to complete the course. I’ve always been extremely interested in Art Therapy ever since one of the last art classes in year 11 and we looked at career pathways in the arts.
I would also like to thank Paula Gillespie – Fotheringham for delivering such a well thought out, provocative, enjoyable and inspiring course and all of my course mates who were always inquisitive, welcoming, happy and dedicated.
The course was split over two weeks, 3 days in the first and 2 in the second.
This split gave us all the breathing space needed to process everything we had learnt. As well as a theoretical course it was also quite an emotionally draining one and I think we all benefitted from having the time and the space to reflect. We learnt the ins and outs of Art Therapy, what is and isn’t expected from a therapist, what materials are best for which clients, the importance of choosing the correct material and how to develop a client’s confidence using a creative therapy. We looked at a number of different approaches but focussed on the client centered approach. Ultimately what all of the approaches agree on is supporting a client to set comfortable and sometimes changing goals for themselves and successfully achieve them.
The course leader Paula created a safe and welcoming environment right from the beginning. Her knowledge, passion, wealth of experience and flexibility made it extremely easy to learn everything in such a short space of time. It was obvious she wanted to share her wealth of knowledge with the group and as she’s worked in a variety of settings from one on one client based to psychiatric wards in prisons etc. she was able to give us a well-informed insight into the sector.
Personally, one of the most interesting and unique elements of the course were the self-reflection and self-care components. It’s rare to have the opportunity to focus on yourself so at first it felt strange and selfish but this is obviously an essential in therapy. It goes without saying on a course like this with so many experiential workshops and self-reflection opportunities it’s easy to share and feel quite vulnerable but as a group we bonded extremely well which made it all the easier to share in a supportive environment.
By the end of the course I think we all understood the importance of giving yourself time to reflect on who you are. It’s definitely something I’m going to try and give myself more time to do.
As a gallery and museum organisation, and sector as a whole really, I can easily see the benefit Art Therapy can have on our sector. Many galleries now see the benefit the arts can have on Health and Wellbeing, especially on developing resilience and positive mental health/attitudes. Although there are lots of similarities between arts for health and Art Therapy there are many and major differences. But I believe both can benefit from each other and develop new skills from learning off one another.
With some of the skills and ideas we learnt from the course I feel comfortable implementing them and using them in a workshop setting.
Some of the simple ice breakers like ‘The squiggle game’ would be perfect for a group of teens reluctant and worried that they’re art work wouldn’t be good enough.
I love the ethos of Art Therapy; it isn’t about creating a beautiful image to be judged by a therapist. It’s the act of creating, taking that first step and putting mark to paper and understanding where you want to go. As part of my workshops I deliver I always want to incorporate some form of Art Therapy, whether that’s a simple ice breaker or enabling others to self-reflect as part of the creative process
I think Gallery Oldham will benefit from my taking part as I’m going to try and implement some of the essential components learnt into workshops I deliver from now on. This might be simple ice breakers as mentioned above or a deeper self-reflection activity. The course has also developed my understanding of creating a safe environment for participants, looking at what, if anything, I can do to make it an inviting space.
Luckily I’ll soon be working on a project with a registered Art Therapist linking to an upcoming exhibition. With the knowledge and learning I’ve taken away from the course I hope to be able to assist her where possible and offer a brilliant opportunity for our participants.
I feel extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity to discover more about Art Therapy and meet some brilliant people. It’s also, once again, kick-started my creativity. I’ve booked myself on to a few different creative workshops, set myself a task of doing ‘a drawing a day’ and I’m really appreciating the therapeutic wellbeing the arts can bring.
Once again, thank you to Alex Bird, MDNW, Gallery Oldham, Paula and everyone else who supported me during the course!
Access and Interpretation Officer