Annette has a Masters degree in art therapy and works as an art therapist team leader in a primary school.
I chose art therapy as a career after completing a number of art-related degrees and teaching art at secondary school for a number of years. As an artist, I volunteered for a few organisations that worked specifically with disadvantaged children and became involved in community projects. This involvement with children as a teacher and as a volunteer artist prompted me to what I felt was a natural career progression to art therapy. I believed that this would offer me the opportunity to better support the children I worked with emotionally and be better able to facilitate art projects and workshops.
My clinical placement at university provided me with my first art therapy job opportunity. I chose to work for a children’s charity which operated therapeutic services within primary and secondary schools. On completion of my degree I was offered my post as a team leader in a primary school. The school that I work in is in a deprived area and on the team are various creative arts therapists, complementary therapists, family therapists and other professionals who offer activities which engage children.
I feel that some of the most valuable skills that I gained on the art therapy course were learning to tolerate uncertainty and to work within different frameworks. This helped me to think more creatively and also to take initiative to manage myself. Apart from this, the course helped to embrace the multidimensional experience of art therapy, not only from the view of the therapist but also through the eyes of the client, leading to a more holistic and empathetic approach and, just as importantly, a trust in the healing and expressive potential of the medium of art.
In my role as a team leader I see clients for art therapy sessions, manage a team of therapists and volunteers within the school, liaise with various professionals in statutory and other services and attend many team meetings centered around the well-being of various children. The role also involves report writing and documenting and evaluating the role and effectiveness of the service in the school. I also supervise students on placement, conduct interviews for volunteers and take part in continuing professional development (CPD) training activities and presentations. I also help to organise various activities and projects within the school.
My role constantly develops based on the needs of the school and the changing demands on therapeutic services in schools. I feel that one of the most challenging things is time management and finding the balance between administrative tasks and interpersonal relationships.
My long-term career goal is to open my own therapeutic service. I believe that volunteering for an organisation is a good way to start out as it not only gives relevant work experience but it also helps to network with people in the field and gain important contacts and knowledge in art therapy.
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