A guide to studying Art Psychotherapy

Your top questions answered

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Here are the most frequently asked questions about the MA Art Psychotherapy. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us.

Context to studying at the University of South Wales

The art psychotherapy training programme at the University of South Wales is approved and validated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and is delivered at the Newport City Campus. Its theoretical grounding is in the psychodynamic and systemic theories and its professional leaning is pluralistic and trauma informed. The course prepares students to practice as an art psychotherapist across the lifespan in a range of settings, working across a wide spectrum and complexity of needs. It enables students to work collaboratively with clients and their representatives to develop the best possible art psychotherapy-based support, enabling full involvement of service users in the access, design, and evaluation of their art psychotherapy experience. Our students develop their knowledge, skills and experience to meet the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Arts Therapists by the end of their studies.

Can I study Art Psychotherapy full time or part-time?

The MA Art Psychotherapy at University of South Wales is offered on a part-time basis over three years. As it is clinical and professional training and there are many elements to the course that require the integration of theoretical and practical learning and personal insight, three years are needed to assimilate the academic and experiential work. Most of our students have found the training significantly transformative on a personal level, requiring substantial period for self-examination, reflection and processing of own origins and life experiences.

How much and what work experience do I need to apply for the course?

You need to have relevant prior experience with vulnerable people in a related field. Your experience could be in health and social care settings, education and training, as well as charity, 3rd sector and specialist services/agencies supporting those in need. Our applicants have worked in a range of settings, including drug and alcohol services, education settings for children of all ages and needs, their families and adults, care services for young people and adults with mental health difficulties, or people living with dementia, for example. You will need a minimum of two years’ work experience (or part time equivalent). An experience of working in teams and with other professionals is required. A full work experience history (voluntary or paid, part-time or full-time employment) is required as part of the application process.

What qualifications do I need to apply?

An undergraduate bachelor’s degree is needed. Your first degree does not necessarily have to be in arts related subject. We have accepted students with undergraduate degrees in Zoology, Psychology, Social Work and Medicine, amongst others. What is more important is that each candidate engages in an ongoing personal arts practice. We are looking for evidence of a high level of proficiency in a range of creative mediums, strong artistic skills and artistic identity, and a sound understanding of the context to your own arts practice (socially, theoretically, politically, culturally etc.)

Further application requirements

At the time of your application, you must provide:

  • Examples of your arts practice - you are required to submit 5 examples from your arts practice (photographs or web-based examples of your work).
  • Full work experience history – include all work undertaken to date, paid/voluntary, part time or full time, in personal or professional capacity.
  • Focused personal statement – you must respond to the following questions:
  1. Why do you make art and what does your art express?
  2. How does your experience, skills and education to date prepare you for art psychotherapy practice? You must consult the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Arts Therapists to respond to this question.
  3. What have you done to prepare for the training? Include any reading and audio-visual material, attendance at courses or open evenings, discussions with arts therapists and other activities relevant to the training.

Due to the maximum word count for the online application, upload your personal statement as a separate word document during the application process.

What’s the deadline to apply for this course?

The deadline for applications is usually 30th of June each year. Any applications received after this date will be considered if any places remain on the course or for the reserve list only. The course is substantially oversubscribed, and early application is recommended to avoid disappointment.

I don’t have a degree. What experience is considered relevant?

Contact our Admissions Team for guidance on how to specify work-based experience, learning and development equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in your application and personal statement.

What if English is not my first language?

If your first language is not English, you'll need to have achieved either IELTS or TOEFL as stipulated by the HCPC at the point of application, even if your first degree was undertaken in English. For IELTS we require 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each band. For TOEFL (IBT) we require 100/120 with a minimum of 24 in Reading and Writing, and a minimum of 25 in Speaking and Listening. Please upload this as part of your application. English A-level is also acceptable (a minimum grade C) in some circumstances for those completing their post compulsory education in the UK.

How many places are available?


When are the interviews?

We interview from the spring through to the end of the summer in order to select a cohort that will work well together over the three years of training. We are looking for diverse candidates who can bring a range of life and work experiences, skills and knowledge to effectively contribute to the formation and development of the student peer group. You will be invited to book an interview on one of the dates listed on our website. Do not delay booking your place as the interview dates fill quickly. Once the places on the course have been filled, later applying candidates may be offered an interview only for our reserve list.

What does the interview entail?

The interview is comprised of a group information session, a group exercise/discussion, and an individual interview. You will have the opportunity to ask questions at various stages to the day and we do our best to answer them so that you are as fully informed as possible to thrive on the course.

Portfolio tips

You need to bring a portfolio that includes a range of original artwork and shows your current practice as an artist, as well as any preliminary art making and notes, sketchbooks and process-based material, informing your art making processes. We are also interested in other background information, which helps us understand the context to your arts practice (socially, theoretically, politically, culturally etc.)

You will be required to submit 5 examples from your arts practice (photographs or web-based examples of your work) at the application stage. Please ensure any web-based resources are accessible to the course staff. Please do not bring photographs of your work to the interview (unless your arts medium is photography), as we expect to see originals. If there is a reason why this is not possible, (e.g. large sculptural work, installations and time-based arts practice), please bring documentary evidence and inform the Admissions prior to the interview.

We have AV available for display of documentary pieces, digital works, or performance/installation-based pieces. You are welcome to bring your own device to share these with the interview panel.

What is the structure of the course?

A typical day at the university includes seminars and lectures as well as small group work to develop your understanding of theory and practice in art psychotherapy, as well as the skills necessary to meet the HCPC requirements upon the completion of your studies. You will experience three placements over the three years of study; one in each academic year.

How will I be assessed?

Students are assessed through both formative (informal peer and course staff and formal assessment feedback) and summative assessments (graded coursework); group work and contribution to all learning and teaching elements of the course; individual progression and engagement with course materials; placement practice and engagement with clinical supervision; experiential work at University and meeting the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Arts Therapists

What will my timetable be like?

  • Year One: Monday in University, 09.00-17.00; infant observation, 1 hour per week during the autumn term outside of the University day; placement from January, one day per week - day to be agreed with the placement provider; personal therapy - 1 hour per week.
  • Year Two: Tuesday in University, 09.00-17.00; one day per week clinical placement - day to be agreed with the placement provider; personal therapy - 1 hour per week.
  • Year Three: Wednesday in University, 09.00-17.00; up to two days per week clinical placement (this will depend on the organisational requirements of the placement setting) - day to be agreed with the placement provider; personal therapy - 1 hour per week.

Do I need to find my own placements?

Yes, students are expected to secure their own placements with the support of a dedicated placement team. Students work collaboratively with prospective placements, the placement team and staff to ensure they meet their learning needs and HCPC requirements for practice. 

How many times a week should I be in my own personal therapy?

Once a week for one hour as a minimum throughout the course (you are welcome to go more than once a week). We recommend that you start therapy prior to the course and continue to use personal therapy when in placement, even if this falls outside of the university teaching weeks. Many art psychotherapists continue their personal therapy following the completion of their studies to ensure they continue to maintain their wellbeing and mental health.

The therapist must have completed an appropriate psychotherapy or counselling training – level 6 and above is recommended. The therapist must be registered with HCPC or an appropriate professional association in the UK which has complaints and professional fitness to practice procedures in place. Ideally, they should practice psychodynamically or have a good grasp of the approach (in keeping with the course’s main theoretical leaning) and have at least four years’ post qualifying experience. They must have professional indemnity insurance in place, be in regular supervision of their practice and work from a suitable therapeutic setting.

Personal therapy needs to take place face to face, unless restricted by local/government policy. The course team reserve the right to request that you change your personal therapist for one in keeping with the aims and objectives of the training and in line with the HCPC requirements.

Is there anything I need to read before the Art Psychotherapy course starts?

The course reading list will be accessible to all successful applicants at enrolment. In preparation for the interview and the course, you may wish to explore some of the well-known theorists utilised in current art psychotherapy practice e.g. Freud, Jung, Klein, Winnicott, Bion, Bowlby etc. and some introductory art psychotherapy books: 

  • Edwards, D. (2014) Art therapy 
  • Case, C. and Dalley, T. (2014) The handbook of art therapy
  • Hogan, S. (2016) Art therapy theories: a critical introduction
  • Wood, C. (2011) Navigating art therapy: a therapist’s companion

Additionally, look at www.baat.org to understand the professional and ethical stance of the course and for useful information about the profession.  You will also find details here of Art Therapy Introductory and Foundation courses which will be very good preparation for embarking on the MA Art Psychotherapy training at the University of South Wales. 

What career opportunities are there for Art Psychotherapists after graduation?

Plenty, from NHS and social care to other organisations, charities and independent agencies; as well as through social enterprise. We look at this during the course and more specifically in year 3 of the course. The employment rate of our graduates remains very high and many of our students receive their first job offer from their final clinical placement.