Things to know about your (Art) Therapist...it's certainly not a secret.
If you follow anybody from a mental health field on social media platforms you may have seen a popular image that breaks down a few things under the heading *'A Little Secret About Your Therapist', and this got me thinking. There are some important things that anyone should be aware of when they are getting some professional help and support. This could be directly dealing with a counsellor and therapist in their private practice - or through an agency or charitable organisation. In this post I am going to talk a bit about some things that are worth looking into before you enter into that relationship with somebody as the beginning of some support and also break down a few things that might not be so well known about therapeutic or counselling practices but certainly aren't a secret. Under the headings below I am going to be using my practice of working with adults when using generalised examples.
You should know (or be able to ask) a bit about your therapists professional background before you start. It's your right to know who you are speaking to in a professional sense and it's important that they are well equipped and experienced in the area it is that you would like some support in. If you are seeing somebody privately for example and finding somebody through an agency or a listing online somewhere like Psychology Today, you will usually be able to see and gain a sense of what the practitioner specialises in and areas in which they have worked before. That doesn't mean they can't help you if something that relates to your particular need isn't listed but can be a really good guide. Private practitioners often also have a website giving further details of their work or overall information about the place from which they work if they work as part of a wider centre or organisation.
As above, you should be able to ask or find out from a website or from the practitioner directly about a persons qualifications. Don't be scared to ask! Especially in private practice if you are paying directly for a service then you should be able to have a discussion about and even see evidence of (if needed) the relevant qualifications of your therapist.
Fact! - Art Therapist is a protected title. That means that if somebody calls themselves an Art Therapist (or Psychotherapist, which means the same thing) then they must have done a qualification in that area which is usually a Masters or above.
Your practitioner will have supervision regularly with another counsellor or therapist. As an Art Therapist this is mandatory and covers all the clients that I work with across my whole practice (groups and one to one sessions). This is so that we can talk through what is going on in the sessions and make sure any actions or content is thoroughly thought through. Sharing information about our clients in this space is confidential and all counsellors and therapist do it to make sure what they are doing is safe and supported. Reflecting back on the sessions content and processing things in this way with another trained and qualified individual is vital. This is essentially to ensure you are being provided with the very best response to whatever it is you are bringing. Some practitioners within statutory settings may also discuss your sessions within an in-house team. Again, this is to make sure that any ongoing treatment is done in the best possible way and is appropriate for you. You should be told all of this in your initial sessions and where information is shared will be detailed in your contract before you begin.
This is something people often feel uneasy about. As I mentioned under the previous heading - a confidentiality agreement should be clear and concise and agreed with your therapist as the beginning of any sessions being offered. This will tell what, how and when information will need to be shared. Usually a confidentiality agreement is between a therapist and their client and information would need to be shared if anybody was in significant danger of harm to try and prevent this from happening. This is a super simplified explanation and each circumstance will differ slightly based on the team around your therapist and the context in which you are meeting with them. As we have mentioned above, supervision is a mandatory part of any practitioners practice so they will usually talk about sessions there too, but anonymously and confidentially.
Fact! - When you choose to see a therapist for whatever the reason may be, you are getting much more than the hour you spend in your session. There is often reading and research going on in the background as well as holding you in mind between session when maybe things crop up and remind your therapist of you. This is all part of the therapeutic process.
Any counsellor or therapist that you see should be a registered health care professional to make sure that they are qualified and certified as fit to practice by their governing bodies. Now this next part is where it gets a bit complicated - different areas of counselling and therapy have different bodies and legislation that they would need to abide by. For example as an Art Therapist, I am registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) which means that I pay a fee to stay registered to practice what I do, as well as the HCPC being a body which I am accountable to. They hold all their registered practitioners on a list so they can be found via their website and audit (check in on a certain number of practitioners per year) registrants who are obligated to prove their work as well as any training and continued professional development around their clinical practice. This is in place to make
sure that everybody on their list is fit to practice. Equally - if you have an issue with ANY Art Therapist you are able to go directly to the HCPC and register this complaint so that they can act accordingly. This helps to ensure the safety and standard of clients working with registered professionals. They also do the registration for nurses and other health care practitioners. Similarly, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) have a registered list of professionals whom they have checked for their clinical learning and understanding. Although registration with BACP is not mandatory, it can help you to get a further understanding and reassurance that your professional has a certain level of skill and knowledge for your peace of mind. Another place to find a registered and qualified Art Therapist is through British Association of Art Therapist (BAAT) who also hold a list of registered and qualified Art Therapist practitioners (although again,not a mandatory requirement to be registered with BAAT it is recommended).
Art Therapists make Art!
Specifically, Art Therapists often engage in a reflective art making practice where they digest and spend time sitting with the feelings left with them with them at the end of all their sessions with different clients of even just holding their clients specifically in mind. This often shows us and brings out some things we maybe were't aware of about what is it that we are doing in response to what we are presented with, or even how we are dealing with this ourselves. Similar to how the art making tends to help our clients process things in a visual way too.
I will use my image (left) as an example, you may have seen us pot this on our Instagram earlier in the week.
I made this image whilst thinking a bit about my work at the moment but also life?! I started with a squiggle and fleshed it out a bit so it seemed almost like a looming figure - I thickened this out with white paint and in doing so accidentally splashed white paint, so embraced this and thought of it a bit like a happy accident, embracing the lack of control added more splatters which was similar to stars or a galaxy. It brought to mind thoughts of a vast and uncontrollable space. I saw myself as the orb in the corner initially and was looking at how the looming shape was intimidating and seemingly overwhelming the orb - which was gold but lacked a
glow or shine. I walked away from my work momentarily and when I came back I approached it from a different way and realised that in another way, the image (right) resembled that of a catchers baseball mitt and in terms of my clients that actually it was a reflection on the holding space I was keeping for them in this moment of unknown and chaos, which places the clients in the roll of the orb, floating through the air and not yet caught.
I hope this really brief example above can give you a bit of insight into what goes into therapy and but also how images can help to guide our reflective and therapeutic understanding as professionals, but also in a therapy space with clients.
I'd love to know, Did you find this helpful? Are these things you knew already? Did you have any more questions? If so I would be happy to answer them post them below or get in touch.
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Stay safe and be kind to each other
*haven't included the image I'm referring to because I have been unable to find the original owner to provide credit, but you can probably find it on google.