A complete guide to Creative and Therapeutic Arts

Your top questions answered
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Beth Pickard, course leader, answers the most commonly asked questions for the Creative and Therapeutic Arts degree.

How many hours do I have to be on campus?
This is a full time undergraduate programme so there are ordinarily contact hours on each day of the working week. When students are not in lectures or workshops, they are encouraged to make full use of the studio spaces and other university facilities e.g. library, student centre, to work on their art practice, research and assignments. As such, students can expect to be on campus most days of the week.
Can I study alongside my part time job?
Yes, many students have part time work alongside their studies. We release the timetable at the beginning of each academic year so that you can make arrangements for the year in advance. Most students work evenings and/or weekends since there is typically some course engagement on most days of the working week, whether this is lectures, placement or directed study.

What kind of students are on the course?
Student cohorts are very diverse with students from all over the UK as well as internationally. Some students come straight from school or from a Foundation degree, whereas other students might have much professional experience either as an artist or in another profession with art as their own passion. Some students retrain after a career in another field, while other students have developed a passion for the arts later in life. There is typically a mix of students straight from school through to those retraining after another career. There are typically some mature students in each cohort which we feel brings a valuable enrichment to the cohort’s experience.

Do you have any mature students?
Yes we typically have some mature students in each cohort and we really value the experience and insight these students bring. All students have a wide range of personal and professional experience and the diversity of the student cohorts are vital to the student experience. We warmly welcome applications from local and international, younger and more mature students.

Is this course suitable for musicians?
While we do explore elements of music or sound as part of the students’ art practice, the course current recruits primarily visual artists and doesn’t teach a dedicated music pathway. You might be interested in some of the Popular Music courses at USW or researching a community music degree or modules within.

Is there any Maths on the course?
There isn’t any taught or assessed maths as such, the main numerical work would be when exploring a funding application and understanding costs. There is support available through the Study Skills department for students who would value additional support in this area. Assessment methods on the course are varied and are typically coursework and practical in orientation. There are no exams and no maths assessments.

I’m not studying A Levels or a BTEC Extended Diploma but am studying another qualification. Can I apply?
We consider additional art qualifications such as a Level 3 Art and Design Foundation Diploma and the entry criteria for this course is a Merit grade. If you are studying another qualification at Level 3 but this is not art related, we would expect your personal statement to express your interest in this area along with any extra-curricular work you have undertaken e.g. night classes, independent studio practice, In addition, we would be looking for a strong evidence based portfolio of work demonstrating your art practice. 
How do I obtain the DBS required for the Creative and Therapeutic Arts course?
If you are made an offer for this degree and you accept it, we will contact you approximately three months before the start date to send you all the information you require to undertake the DBS. Please ensure that your e-mail address remains up-to-date as this is how we will correspond with you. 
What is the deadline date to apply?
Providing vacancies remain available, we will continue to consider applications. Once we no longer have places available, the Creative and Therapeutic Arts course will be officially closed through UCAS.
What do I need to do to become an Art Therapist?
To become an art therapist you must complete an MA Art Psychotherapy, having successfully completed your undergraduate degree. This is an aspiration of many of our students when they begin studying on our course and is a potential progression route. Amongst other attributes, you must have experience of facilitation and evidence of an established art studio practice which our BA (Hons) Creative and Therapeutic Arts course would provide you with. 

What exactly do I do on placement?

For the placement modules, you will work at a setting with adults, young people or children. You will be using your art skills to support and develop your participants in accordance with their identified needs or to nurture their wellbeing and expression. In this, we work therapeutically rather than as Art Therapists - a very important distinction to make. At the moment, in Year One, the placement is an intensive, collaborative project; in Year Two it's 14 weeks individual workshop practice and in Year Three it's 18 weeks individual workshop practice. In addition to your placement experience, you will be studying other modules such as Art, Therapeutic Principles and many more which support and enrich your understanding of creative and therapeutic practice.

Does the Creative and Therapeutic Arts course provide me with the opportunities to develop my skills in helping others?

In terms of helping others, the course currently provides students with three professional placements:

  • Currently, in Year One you will engage with a range of highly experienced professionals during an intensive project period to prepare and equip you for working professionally in the field of creative and therapeutic arts. Having developed your workshop facilitation skills and knowledge base, you will have the opportunity to facilitate a collaborative workshop in the community with your peers and a local organisation of relevance to the course.
  • In Year Two you would be able to choose from a broad range of settings e.g. mainstream education, special education, learning resource base, asylum seeker centres, women's refuges, community centres, homeless shelters, youth groups, elderly care homes, organisations which support adults with learning disabilities, and the list goes on. Typically in Year Two, you would choose from the course's pre-existing database of settings.
  • In Year Three, you can choose from our pre-existing database or choose to work at a new setting of particular interest to you, in liaison with your tutors and Placement Officer. You can either use your Year Three placement experience to specialise in working with a particular participant group or you can use it as an opportunity to diversify your CV and experience.

What is the difference between Art Therapy and working therapeutically?
When you work creatively and therapeutically with others at undergraduate level, you are facilitating a space within which your workshop participants can (often subconsciously) develop week by week through using art.  You are providing alternative means of expression and communication which are carefully tailored to the workshop participants’ needs in a meaningful and enjoyable way. You use your own art practice to inspire and shape the design of your creative and therapeutic workshops.  Inevitably, from drawing on your own art studio practice, you can extract therapeutic qualities which are applicable for working with others e.g. themes, subjects, materials, imagery, processes, sensory qualities (touch, smell, taste, sight, sound), and the list goes on!  You do not prescribe, diagnose or analyse directly with your workshop participants.  You support, engage and inspire, working with a broad range of people in a very broad range of settings.

Art Therapy is a clinical practice which adheres to the standards of the HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council).  Art Psychotherapists therefore work alongside other allied health professionals. You can only train to become a registered Art Therapist at postgraduate level. 

Is the art practice predominantly through 2D or 3D making? 

The nature of your art making depends on how you interpret a project brief. Students can choose to work primarily through 2D, 3D or a mix of both. There are some more collaborative projects where you will be asked to respond through a specific medium but the majority of your creative output during the Art modules is shaped by you and is supported and guided by your tutors.

Does the Creative and Therapeutic Arts course provide me with the opportunity to explore my personal growth and identity through my art practice?
The nature of the art module is to develop your knowledge and skills both in terms of use of materials and conceptual ideas. Students tend to gravitate towards particular concepts and art media and this is very much nurtured by us as tutors. We encourage students to develop a strong sense of identity as an artist and inevitably the art reflects points of personal interest. There is no specific style which is common among our graduates, they are all very different and we are very proud of the artistic variety our graduates possess. Equally, we ask that you reflect upon and analyse your art studio practice so that you can work out what is therapeutically beneficial about your art practice.

What can you extract from your art practice to help others?
This could be your choice of art materials or the subject matter of your artwork. This is then explored on placement and supported by models of reflection from the Therapeutic Principles modules. Students develop an individual and passionate identity for themselves as therapeutic art practitioners. You do not need to compromise your personal art studio practice to work therapeutically with others, instead you can draw inspiration from it!

What are the facilities like at the Treforest Campus for Creative and Therapeutic Arts? Do you get your own work space?
We are based within D Block at the 
Treforest Campus which means we have access to messy art teaching space and a range of facilities so that you can experiment with different art media. We also provide each year group on the course with studio space so that you can work freely in the art studio spaces outside of lecture contact time. We expect our students to engage in independent studio practice when they are not in lectures. 

Is there scope for working internationally?

There are numerous opportunities for developing your career when you become a USW student. Some of our students have worked at Camp America over the summer breaks, they have volunteered to build houses in India and have volunteered for many other international and charitable organisations. Some students have gone on to complete further training with community arts based organisations.  However, these students have done well to take the initiative to pursue these great opportunities that have been advertised by our Student Union, through being involved in student societies and our networking and communication of current opportunities in the field. 

What is the employment outlook o after I graduate?
You can work immediately after completing this degree. Many of our students are employed within six months of graduating, a number of which have been offered employment by their placement settings. Some students will graduate and work part-time while continuing their postgraduate studies (for example, MA Art Psychotherapy or MA Arts Practice.  Suitable job titles for immediate work after graduating vary greatly e.g. Community Artist, Outreach Officer, Outreach Programmer, Workshop Facilitator, Artist in Residence, Arts Activities Coordinator, Support Worker, Community Engagement Officer, and the list goes on! 

Where can I see examples of students' work?
If you are able to attend our Open Day we can show you examples of our students' art workbooks. There are photos of students' work on the CTA Facebook page, CTA Twitter and CTA Instagram.

How much of the creative and therapeutic art course is practical?

All assignments are coursework based (presentations, essays, reflective journals, art workbooks, commentaries, art practice etc.) - there are no exams. Major modules on the course are the Art, Placement and Independent Study Modules and these are largely practical, however, there are a number of smaller theoretical modules e.g. Therapeutic Principles, Human Development, Academic Skills for Inclusive Practice, Working in Diverse Settings, Collaboration and Participation in the Arts etc.

Can you suggest a few books I could read to deepen my understanding? 
  • Clift, S. and Camic, P. (Eds) (2016), Oxford Textbook of Creative Arts, Health and Wellbeing: International Perspectives on Practice, Policy and Research, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Fox, A. and MacPherson, H. (2015), Inclusive Arts Practice and Research: A Critical Manifesto. Oxon and New York: Routledge
  • Helguera, P. (2011) Education for Socially Engaged Art: A Materials and Techniques Handbook. New York: Jorge Pinto Books.