Through the use of simple art materials and the creative process of art making, Art Therapy aims to help clients “discover an outlet for often complex and confusing emotions which cannot be expressed verbally and to foster within them self-awareness and growth” (BAAT, 1999). Clients can self-refer, or they can be referred by an accountable agent. Following assessment a contract is agreed upon between the client and the therapist. People of all ages and gender can participate in Art Therapy, and will use it to focus on traumatic issues such as stress, separation, bereavement, sexual abuse or mental illness. No special artistic talent is required, only a willingness to use art materials in an exploratory way. Sessions take place in a safe, non-threatening environment often based in settings such as schools, day care centres, hospitals and prisons. The Art Therapist maintains a record of all that occurs in relation to the Art Therapy sessions, but ownership of the artwork remains with the client and therefore the therapist must seek permission from the client with regards to sharing the artwork with others. Confidentiality is paramount in Art Therapy, but the therapist is obliged to inform the relevant people and bodies if a client reveals incidents of undisclosed abuse or states intent to self-harm or harm others.
(B.A.A.T (British Association of Art Therapists) (1999). Code of Ethics and Principles of Professional Practice for Art Therapists. Brighton: The British Association of Art Therapists Limited.)
Art Therapy Process
Clients can self-refer or be referred by a reputable agent.
The reason(s) for referral should be stated on any referral form.
A brief clinical / social history and current state of health should be outlined on the referral form.
Following on from the referral, the Art Therapist will meet with the client(s) to explain the rudiments of the Art Therapy process and to let the client engage in some art making in order to ascertain if Art Therapy is a suitable therapeutic intervention for the client(s).
If it is felt that Art Therapy is an appropriate therapeutic intervention for the client(s), a contract is agreed to begin a programme of 6 Art Therapy sessions.
The Art Therapy sessions can focus on specific issues, or, they can be used as an opportunity by the client(s) to explore, using the art materials available.
At the end of the 6 sessions a review is held at which point a decision is made on whether additional sessions are required or are suitable.
Art Therapy Session
A one to one Art Therapy session lasts for one hour (a group session can last for approx. 1½ hours), which includes a period of 10 to 15 minutes at the end, to allow for discussion about the artwork created, or about any issues that may have arisen during the session.
The Art Therapist tends to be non-directive, with only limited technical advice been given. Art Therapy is not an art class in the traditional sense.
While conversation during the art making process is not be discouraged, the art making is the main focus of the session.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the task of the Art Therapist to interpret client artwork. The Art Therapist is present to facilitate the Art Therapy session and to help bring the client(s) to some form of understanding about what they have created and what it may be suggesting to them.
Interruptions by others during the Art Therapy session, are strongly discouraged.
The Art Therapist maintains a record of all that occurs in relation to the Art Therapy sessions, but ownership of the artwork remains with the client(s) and therefore, the therapist must seek permission from the client(s) with regards to sharing the actual artwork with others.
Between sessions the Art Therapist is be the keeper of client artwork.
Confidentiality can be broken if, during the course of the Art Therapy session, a client refers to an undisclosed incident of abuse or declares an intent to self-harm or harm others.
A period immediately after the Art Therapy session is allocated to the Art Therapist to allow for reflection and making notes on the significant events that occurred during the session.
The Art Therapy process is brought to a close when the client(s) and the Art Therapist feel and agree that it is appropriate to do so. At that point the client(s) can take their artwork with them, either to keep it or destroy it (for clients who have worked through personal and difficult issues the act of destroying the artwork can form part of the healing process).
Alternatively, clients can ask the Art Therapist to keep / destroy the artwork.
In the event of the client(s) requesting that the Art Therapist keep the artwork, the Art Therapist can dispose of it after a period of three years.