Chloe is an art psychotherapist at a cancer centre

Chloe Barry, Art Psychotherapy graduate

MA Art Psychotherapy graduate Chloe Barry works at Maggie's Swansea, a cancer centre in south west Wales. She is also employed by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, working alongside arts psychotherapists and an assistant psychologist to improve access to Primary Care Mental Health Services for adults with learning disabilities and similar access needs.  


 

Working as an Art Psychotherapist

"A typical day starts at 9am with staff supervision at the Maggie's centre. This is an opportunity for the staff to share current thinking and concerns. It helps all the staff remain informed about the work that goes on at the centre as Maggie's offer an extensive programme of support for anybody affected by cancer from benefits advice to how to look good and feel better during cancer treatment.

 

I then prepare for my art psychotherapy group. At this point the art therapy student on placement will arrive and we often set up the group therapy room together, thinking about the art materials and preparing for the session.

The art psychotherapy group runs for two hours in the morning, it is an open group meaning anyone seeking support through the centre - whether bereaved, pre, during or post cancer treatment - is welcome to come along and try a session. This means that, although there is a core group that attend regularly, we often have new starters and therefore I might take some time to talk to interested persons about their health and what to expect before starting the group.

After the group I tidy the room to be used for other purposes and set a time to debrief with the student, an opportunity to discuss the art psychotherapy process and consider important group dynamics. I will then communicate with core staff at the centre, ensuring any relevant health or safety concerns are managed as necessary. Following this, I spend a few moments enjoying the fabulous surroundings that Maggie's has to offer while remaining on hand to meet, talk and listen to visitors with an interest in art psychotherapy.

In the afternoon I enter an NHS hospital setting for my other post.

It starts with a strategic team meeting including the head of psychological services and the head of the arts psychotherapies department. We focus on the progress and direction of our project with a view to the outcomes we need to demonstrate at the end of each phase. Following this meeting my team members and I will devise an action plan for the rest of the week. While this role has yet to include the clinical work initially anticipated (due to various limitations impacting the project) the opportunity it has provided me to work within the realm of research and service development alongside other creatives and psychologically minded individuals has been a real treat.

About the Art Psychotherapy course

I graduated from the MA Art Psychotherapy course in 2014. I had wanted to study Art Psychotherapy for many years, my interest grew out of my own experiences of studying fine art where I began to understand art making as a means of communication with the self. I was thrilled to learn that I could do my Art Psychotherapy training in Wales.

The experiential group learning was integral to my development. It provided me with the opportunity to process my art psychotherapy journey and learn about myself within a group setting.

I was also pleasantly surprised with the research aspect of the course. Initially the thought of carrying out a research project daunted me. However the support from the course and my research supervisor enabled me to engage with research in an unexpected and exploratory way from which I learnt a great deal.

My former course mates remain an invaluable support. It was a relief to be able to share the trials, errors and successes of getting started in the profession with each other.

 

I simply wouldn't be able to do what I do without the Art Psychotherapy qualification. Not just because HCPC regulations stipulate that you can't legally work as an art psychotherapist without the qualification but also because the training encouraged me to face many challenges. Such challenges informed my personal understanding of psychodynamic processes and equipped me for the work in ways I can't imagine having reached otherwise."