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On Art Therapy

This month an exhibition called Art + Healing will open at University College Hospital, cialis London (19 April – 5 June). It will show the works of organisations and individuals who value art therapy: Combat Stress, Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture, London Art Therapy Centre, as well as the work of artists,  art therapists and their clients.

As a young doctor exploring whole person medicine, I’d heard of Art Therapy but carelessly put it in the same rubric as basket weaving and other ‘occupational activities’ to help psychologically disturbed people. Being married to an art psychotherapist has shown me how naïve and utterly incorrect that presumption was. I was surprised to hear that art therapists comprise – after doctors – the most qualified group of clinicians in the NHS. Art Therapy is a post-graduate training and art therapists have undergone formal education in both art and psychotherapy.

In the ‘talking therapies’ (ie most forms of psychotherapy) words are the main medium by which a client expresses feelings. In Art Therapy, a therapeutic conversation also takes place, but crucially the client is invited to use art materials to create images. What is expressed in this process of image making often transcends words. Using language in daily life can make us over-familiar with the medium of words allowing us to be unhelpfully guarded in expressing feelings. The less familiar media of paper, paint, crayons, sand and sculpture tends to lead to moving expressions and authentic insights that can surprise both art therapist and client.

An effective art therapist needs to be a good talking therapist of course, but the use of image making adds tremendous dynamism to both the therapeutic process and the relationship between therapist and client.

Art Therapy can be experienced one-to-one or in groups and you get to take your paintings home with you. No artistic talent is required and the whole therapeutic process is creative, energising and fun.

The forthcoming exhibition at University College Hospital and London Art Therapy Centre will introduce you to artworks which resulted in profound benefits for their creators, leaving no doubt as to the efficacy of Art Therapy.

Art therapy is a regulated profession and more information can be found here:

Art + Healing exhibition

London Art Therapy Centre

British Association of Art Therapists



By | 2013-04-02T16:34:52+00:00 April 2nd, 2013|Current Affairs, Health|6 Comments

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  1. Hephzibah April 2, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Many thanks for your recognition and support of art therapy.

  2. adzcliff April 2, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Nice piece Dr Kaplan, but I would like to share a few comments

    I wonder if this piece would read better if you were to use the
    collective of ‘arts’ therapies (rather than ‘art’), so as to capture the sister
    disciplines of music and drama therapy? As I understand it, these
    psychotherapists are trained to the same post-graduate standards of the
    art therapist, and work to similar principles (albeit via
    different mediums). You may also have overlooked the academic
    credentials of the clinical psychologist, who for some years have
    required a professional doctorate in addition to their under-graduate
    degree (and relevant experience) before they can practice.

    It’s also interesting that you consider medical doctors the most
    qualified health professionals, given that it’s possible to practice as
    a junior doctor off the back of a single (albeit long and exceptionally
    rigorous) BSc? To take clinical psychology as an example, there’s very
    few routes that could take you from fresher to qualified clinician in
    less than 7 years – with even that being considered very quick.

    I wonder if your reference to basket-weaving and the
    occupational therapies could be construed (rightly or wrongly) as an
    unhelpful stereotype of occupational therapy, which, in my opinion, is a
    grossly under-appreciated profession in the field of mental health.
    When we look at some of the evidence for the psychosocial therapies,
    many of the resulting recommendations end up looking very much like
    what occupational therapists and case-working social workers have been
    saying and doing for years.

    But apart from all that, yes, I agree, the arts therapies seem to provide some useful approaches for a range of individuals and emotional/behavioural issues, although I would still welcome further research to illustrate just how useful. And an interesting looking event – if I were in London, I might be tempted to
    take a look.

    Cheers for now


    • Dr. Kaplan April 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      Fair points made here. As a young and very inexperienced doctor, I was clearly naive about benefits of art therapy and occupational therapy. It is true too that I have heard good things about music therapy and drama therapy but I have not had personal experience of these but I have experienced art therapy directly and been involved with many inspiring activities at the London Art Therapy Centre. So I guess I just happen to know more about it than other arts based forms of psychotherapy and am looking forward to the exhibition which I wlll review at the time

  3. Adzcliff April 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks Dr Kaplan. Not sure why my comments pasted like that (was trying out a new word-processing app on my tablet).

  4. Hephzibah April 3, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Hi Adzcliff

    You make some valid points. Drama and dance/movement therapists do have equitable training as the art therapists and are registered with the HCPC under the protected title Arts Therapist but music therapy, sadly, has not yet got the same recognition.

    Clinical psychologists are often younger people in their 20’s as a career path after a degree in psychology while arts therapists are usually older, often training in their 30’s-50’s so in theory bring more maturity to the work.It is hard to be accepted into an arts therapy training in one’s 20’s.

    Re OT’s, from my understanding the clinical focus is on Active Daily Life Experiences and Practices which is more about engaging in the outer world whereas arts therapists tend to focus more on the inner worlds of their clients. I agree with the OT’s being under-estimated in the valuable work they do.

    Anyway – thanks for your interest in art therapy.

  5. Adzcliff April 4, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Thanks for that Hephzibah

    Actually I’ve just checked the HCPC website and it looks like Music Therapy is a registered arts therapy:


    Was interested to read though that there are both art therapists and art psychotherapists – not sure if you can shed any light on the differences?

    With regarding the standing of the clinical professions, I think my point was which, in principle, were the most qualified on entering their profession. I’m currently hard pushed to think of a newly qualified clinician more qualified than the clinical psychologist (BPS accredited behavioural science degree + professional doctorate). My experience is that these professionals have also worked and studied extensively in between their minimal trainings, often requiring post-grad qualifications and a few appointments as an assistant psychologist just to get a look in for a training course – but that is deviating from my original point. Of course if we started looking at individuals we’ll find certain nurses more ‘qualified’ than certain doctors, certain arts therapists more ‘qualified’ than certain psychologists, pharmacists more ‘qualified’ than physios and so on and so on…

    All good fun.

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