For Agencies and Institutions
It’s not uncommon for an employer to hire an art therapist without fully realizing what art therapy can contribute to the setting. In addition to understanding psychotherapeutic theory and techniques, art therapists also understand the prescriptive use of art media and methods and the range of responses these can elicit. This solid knowledge base is used to evaluate client status, progress toward treatment goals, and intervention effectiveness. Art therapists work to assist the client in integrating cognitive/affective/somatic operations, which in turn fosters the client’s ability to self-monitor and self-regulate.
In light of this skill set and neuroscientific research that validates the use of experiential therapy in working with dysregulated clients, it is unfortunate that many art therapists are hired in an attempt to fill a hole in the programming schedule or are valued more for their ability to provide verbal therapy than for their ability to provide art therapy. When a work environment overlooks the abilities of its art therapist, it doesn’t take long for clients to pick up on this and assume that art therapy is not “real” therapy. It also doesn’t take long for the art therapist to look for more appropriate employment elsewhere, costing the employer in terms of employee turnover, or to become demoralized and reduce productivity, which also costs the employer in the long run.
It doesn’t have to work out like this. Employers who have been advised about art therapy and the ways it is different from verbal therapy stand to gain by putting thought into preparing the work environment for art therapy services well in advance of hiring an art therapist. Realistic expectations of what an art therapist will be contributing—and needing—will make for a better match between the employer and the person who fills the art therapy position, which ultimately will benefit the clients served by the agency.
Some things potential employers should be aware of are:
- art as a byproduct of neurological activity rather than as a decorative object
- the credentialing process in art therapy
- the need for a clearly defined supplies budget
- the art therapist’s ethical responsibility to keep client artwork safe and confidential
- the time involved in preparing materials for sessions and maintaining these materials
- the ongoing need for providing staff training about art therapy/the art therapist’s role
I would be glad to help you determine how an art therapist can best make contributions to your setting. My experience in a variety of work environments with a broad range of client populations has made me aware of what promotes the successful integration of art therapy services into a workplace and what prevents it. Consultations will take place in your work setting in order for me to better understand the environment in which art therapy services will be provided. Please contact me for more information about consulting services in order to promote the competent and effective implementation of art therapy into your setting.