Preparing for Graduation – Future Career Aspirations

For a while now I have been becoming more interested in Art Therapy as a field. After completing my dissertation, I have been even more inspired to pursue this as a future career. From my experiences working with both children and the elderly, I have become really passionate about supporting people through art.

Art therapist work with a wide variety of people to help them use art media as a mode for expression and communication. In the UK, they may work in many sectors, such as the NHS, private practise, schools, charities, prisons, social services etc. There are also rising opportunities in mainstream education, and museums and galleries. Most art therapists start up their careers on a self-employed basis and will often work with other professionals. BAAT (British Association of Art Therapists) explains that most art therapists are currently employed in the south of England and London. Important to note, sometimes there are generic and related jobs advertised on the market that may be suitable for an art therapist to apply for. For instance, ‘Officers’ in Social Services. These are great opportunities for the applicant to convince the organisation that they would benefit from an art therapist.

Practitioners in the field must first have the appropriate training and qualifications before they can start working as art therapists. While this differs in each country, in the UK they must complete a postgraduate diploma in art therapy or psychotherapy. This degree must be recognised by the HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council). To apply for this degree, applicants require an undergraduate degree in an art-based subject, although other relevant degrees might also be considered.

These postgraduate courses require applicants to have at least an equivalent of a years full-time work experience working with vulnerable people. This can be done by volunteering and shadowing staff members in environments such as schools, hospitals, and other related areas that focus on supporting the welfare of an individual. Work experience can be particularly difficult to obtain for this career, as the nature of the work deals with sensitive information.

After qualifying and registering with the HCPC, an art therapist must continually further and develop their knowledge and skills.

Some of the important qualities of an art therapist include interpersonal and listening skills, imagination and enthusiasm, and ability to create a non-judgemental space to encourage trust and participation for the client. Entrepreneurial skills are also important – many art therapists will be networking with other health professionals, writing business proposals, and presenting to potential employers.

At the time of writing this post, there are several charities in Bournemouth which are looking for volunteers – although this has been affected by the pandemic restricting face-to-face meetings. Both the Dorset Mind charity, and the Space Youth Project are currently looking for Support Worker volunteers. After reading their relevant job descriptions, I think both would be amazing opportunities to learn more about the work both charities do and to learn how to work as part of a team to support young people through informal education and art.