Training to become an Art Therapist is a big commitment, part of the training requires that trainees undertake personal therapy throughout the duration of the course. Many students wonder why this is and may be nervous regarding this prospect, or feel that there is nothing 'wrong' with them to warrant therapy. Others may view it as both an additional expense and time commitment. There are many considerations when choosing a therapist, cost should not be the main factor. You must also be comfortable with your choice. It may be worth noting that…
A practitioner who has worked outside of private practice will be more familiar with the subjectivity of practice as compared with theory. They will have gained skills and knowledge whilst working within and contributing to a wider team.
Actual experience will mean a therapist is better equipped to understand responsibility of private work as stipulated by their professional body (BAAT). An Art Therapist listed on the BAAT register has met the required criteria for private practice. Standard membership does not permit entry to the register.
There are several reasons why personal therapy is a component of the training course- I have provided a brief outline below.
Each and every person has their own unique past and experience that has formed the lens they see through. Along the journey this lens becomes obscured by preconceptions, misconceptions, judgements and prejudices. We may 'project' on to people what we see them as- without any basis for this. You are not an exception to this.
As someone training to be responsible for the mental well being of others, you have to be robust enough to manage and contain your feelings stirred up by the people you work with, the actual matter being attended to, or the process of the work . This is where it can become complicated. At times, some of your feelings may become confused with that of the person/people you are working with. This is known as 'transference'. To further complicate matters there may be a 'counter transference' response to this transference. Personal therapy helps you to understand the way you relate to others and how this is is not as conscious as you may believe.
Individuals may find their way into art therapy without ever examining their motives for this, therapists are sometimes 'wounded healers'. Training therapy can help you to look at your motivation and your shadow side. As well as support you should the going get tough. If fully participated in, it can be a life changing experience.
Art therapy provides a safe boundaried space to help you to explore your feelings and emotions
Participating in this process during training can...
Help you examine particular motivations, or help you to view things differently.
Provide a space to explore any personal difficulties you may be struggling with, past or present.
Give you an idea of how someone coming to therapy may feel, seeing it from the other side as it were.
Help you deal with emotions that may be stirred by working with vulnerable people/in difficult circumstances.
Allow you to understand how you interpret or process experiences.
Help to deal with issues that may be raised during placement that touch upon something personal to you.
I therefore concede that personal therapy should be treated as important as assignments and as the placement component of your course.
Speaking from my personal experience if you fully engage with the process, not only will you, but also the individuals you work with benefit.
After all if we can't take our own medicine, how can we expect others to?
BAAT requirement for training therapy
There are many books that are useful for trainee art therapists to read. For anyone outside the field wanting to know more, or simply with an interest in art therapy the highlighted titles give an overall insight into some the theory behind the practice.
Links to local and national resources related to art therapy, arts in health, mental health or other health related matters.