What should I look for in an art therapist?


          Qualifications: Post graduate- 2/3 years; U.K trained, Crawford, Cork and Queen’s Belfast.

          Registration– ensures ethical and legal compliance. Registration is reviewed every 2 years and CPD Continued professional development

 (continual training and updating of skills) is mandatory. At present there is no registration system for art therapists  in the South of Ireland.

          Supervision (i.e. Therapy about their therapy practice). – All therapists are obliged to undergo Supervision and they should discuss this with every client.

          Insurance: legally have to be insured (an art therapist won’t get insurance if not fully trained).

          Memberships; IACAT-The Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists www.iacat.ie.

And BAAT -The British Association of Art Therapists



What is Art Therapy?


· Art Therapy is a form of Psychotherapy where the client uses art as a medium to express and communicate with a qualified Art Therapist.

· The overall aim of Art Therapy is to effect change and growth on a personal level through the use of art materials in a safe, confidential and facilitating environment.

· No previous experience with art is required. The Art Therapist does not interpret the art work, only the creator knows what the art work means. This empowers the client to disclose only what feels safe for them.

 · The art work becomes the central focus of the client and the art therapist in an art therapy session. This may seem less ‘daunting’ for the client than a traditional form of psychotherapy where the client sits facing the therapist.

· The art work itself can become a container: a tangible and powerful expression of emotion that can be ripped up/ locked away/ treasured and reviewed over time.

· Art Therapy can be directed, using specific projects such as; a journaling group, working with  imagery from dream work, creatively working with bereavement and loss etc.

 The process of art therapy is based on the recognition that man’s most fundamental thoughts and feelings, derived from the unconscious, reach expression in images rather than words”. (Naumberg 1958: 511).

Naumberg, Margaret (1958) Art Therapy: Its scope and function. In E.F. Hammer (ed) Clinical applications of projective Drawings. Springfield, Ill: C.C Thomas.


My Background

I completed an Advanced Diploma in Fine Art in 1998 in the Dublin Institute of Technology. I began working in the area of Adults with Intellectual Disabilities in 1999, teaching art.  I still work in this area but my role has changed from art Instructor into a community care worker who does art!. I did an introductory course in Art Therapy in Crawford College, Cork in 2002 and decided that Art Therapy was definately for me. I began my training in Queen’s Belfast in their Masters of Science in Art Therapy in 2004 and graduated in 2007.  I’m now a registered member of the Health Professions council ( www.hpc-uk.org.) which ensures I’m providing and will continue to provide an ethical and safe art therapy practice.    

My experience to date as a trainee art therapist have been in three areas;

A counselling centre with a variety of age groups from young teenagers to adults.

A cancer support centre with those bereaved, in treatment or survivors of Cancer ages ranging from 6 years to 86 years!

A hospice working with non curative clients in a day centre with those well enough to come and go and on the ward with those receiving treatment, mostly in the elderly age bracket.

I’m presently working with boys  aged eight to twelve years in a primary school.

Training in Art Therapy

I trained in Queen’s Belfast but this course has now moved to The Centre for Psychotherapy, Knockbracken in Belfast. (The same tutors are still integral to this excellent course. The contacts for this course are:

Programme Leader,

MSc Art Psychotherapy
Centre for Psychotherapy
Shimna House
Knockbracken Healthcare Park
Saintfield Road
Belfast, BT8 8BH    Tel.: +44 (0)28 9056 5768

Email: christine.williamson@belfasttrust.hscni.net

My training was three years ‘part-time’! I put part-time in inverted commas because it became my life and by no means felt part time! I did one day a week in a placement, one day in lectures and Supervision or lectures and experiential workshops. personal therapy once a week and of course assignments and reading. I was very much in fifth gear for these three years and at times it seem tough but most often I loved every minute. It fundamentally changed who I am and how I am.

There is also training in Crawford in Cork , also three years part time and in Britain. The best source for details of British registered courses is through the BAAT( The British association of Art Therapists) website.http://www.baat.org.