The University of Kent work experience bursary allowed me to afford to go to an Introduction to Art therapy day at the Claremont Project in London. The bursary allowed for me to afford both the ticket for the day, and the cost of my train ticket there and back. Without the bursary I don’t know how I would have been able to afford this valuable experience.
Going to the introduction to Art Therapy day was incredibly valuable. I had and still do have an interest in art therapy, I love art, and I want to be able to help other young LGBT+ people, and art therapy seemed like the perfect way to merge my interests and make a difference to the lives of vulnerable people. However, I didn’t know much about what art therapy, or the training to become an art therapist entailed. Also, becoming an art therapist after graduation would be a major change of direction from my current course, and I felt unconfident about whether I had the skills I needed.
The day was both eye opening and reassuring. In a way the introduction day was the bumpy landing into reality I needed. Becoming an art therapist is a very difficult and lengthy process, usually only recommended to people who already have a stable job, a secure support network and a wealth of experience in the mental health field. BAAT (the British association of art therapists) recommended having a substantial amount of money saved up before you begin the training. Even when the cost of the course tuition is covered by student loan, there are still some very expensive hidden course costs like compulsory private therapy for the duration of the course. It is also essential to have experience in the mental health field before becoming an art therapist. I attended the training day believing I could gain the relevant experience by volunteering alongside my degree, however as I would need at least 1,500 hours of work experience in the mental health centre, it would be a better idea to take a year out and work in the relevant field before doing an art psychotherapy MA.
However, whilst the reality of becoming an art therapist was more difficult than I had been expecting the day also reassured me that I had what I needed to pursue a career using art, and taught me that it was more valuable to have a living breathing portfolio, than perfect but stiff pieces. Through exploring real life case studies, the convenors of the introduction day also demonstrated how art therapy is able to make a real difference to real people’s lives. The question and answer session at the end of the day, answered many of my questions and concerns both about the course, and about employability as an art therapist, as well as exploring the pros and cons between working in the public sector and working privately.
Having learnt a lot more about art therapy, I realised I need to carefully consider my options. If art therapy remains something that I want to do, I need to take the time to build up the relevant work experience and safety net before embarking on the course, it’s not something I can rush straight into after graduation. Having realised both the hidden costs of becoming an art therapist, and the fairly low employability rates, as well as having learnt how little of your own art work you actually get to make, I am considering other careers in the arts such as illustration, that I shied away from before. I am still very interested in helping young people, and whilst I’m still considering becoming an art therapist, I am also opening up to other ways in which I can do that whilst having an artistic career.
The introduction to art therapy day was incredibly valuable as it gave me a more rounded picture of what being an art therapist actually means, and allowed me to consider my options with complete information before committing myself to an expensive MA. It also gave me more information about what I need to become an art therapist, meaning that If I do decide that this is still the path for me, I can go forward and gain the proper experience I need to succeed. Without the University of Kent work experience bursary, I would not have been able to afford going on this introduction day, which meant I’d therefore have been making less informed decisions about my future, and be lacking in vital experience.
– Judith Allen is a 3rd year Social Anthropology student