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Art therapists case study

What does a Art therapist do?

Art therapists work with children, young people, adults and the elderly, using art media as its primary mode of expression to address emotional issues. Clients may have a wide range of difficulties, disabilities or diagnoses. Art therapy is provided in groups or individually, depending on clients’ needs. It is not a recreational activity or an art lesson, although the sessions can be enjoyable. Art therapists have been inspired by theories such as attachment-based psychotherapy and have developed a broad range of client-centred approaches such as psycho-educational, mindfulness and mentalization-based treatments, compassion-focussed and cognitive analytic therapies, and socially engaged practice.

Happy healthy people providing excellent compassionate care

Meet Maggie a Art Therapist in an Adult Acute Inpatient Services in Ipswich

Brief description of my role:

I provide art psychotherapy flexibly and adaptively in both individual sessions and open groups on the wards, to meet the needs of those who are acutely unwell, working closely within the ward teams, encouraging a psychologically informed approach. I also provide clinical supervision and facilitate reflective practice within teams, promoting the use of psychological formulation as a tool for improving our understanding of service users’ experiences. My focus is on ‘what’s happened’ rather than ‘what’s wrong’.

I am also committed to forging partnerships between NSFT and heritage and arts organisations to develop collaborative, recovery focussed arts and wellbeing initiatives as part of the NHS Long Term Plan for Integrated Care Services.

I am a clinical supervisor for art therapy students undertaking their placements as part of their MA Art Psychotherapy training requirement and work privately as a clinical supervisor for art therapists.

Where/how long I trained: Following BA in Fine Art in Newcastle Upon Tyne in 1983, I  completed  a PG Diploma in Art Psychotherapy at Sheffield University 1992

Career progression so far:

I have worked in the NHS for 33 years, 28 of those as an Art Psychotherapist in mental health services, working in community and inpatient settings across the age range. I worked in North Essex and for the past 18 years in NSFT, in acute adult inpatient services in Ipswich, including the Later Life wards, adult acute wards and the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit.  I currently work mainly in later life inpatient services and feel strongly about integrating co-production into our services.

I am also currently in a new Lead role for Suffolk Arts Psychotherapists based across LD & Autism and CFYP services and looking at service development to meet the needs of many service users who are unable to use direct cognitively based psychological approaches.

What I enjoy about my job?:

I am driven by my belief in the value of offering people the means to discover, or re discover a voice for themselves and their experiences through art making in a supportive and safe environment.  I find it inspiring to witness people seeing themselves and their experiences differently in Art Therapy and this shift translating helpfully into other areas of their lives.