Meet the CNTW apprentices doing the first ever Arts Therapy/ Psychotherapy apprenticeship

Posted: 06/02/24

This National Apprenticeship Week, we’re celebrating the achievements of all our apprentices across the Trust.

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) offers a range of apprenticeships, supporting existing and new employees to develop skills and gain academic qualifications.

Some CNTW staff have started an apprenticeship which is the first of its kind in the country.

Two apprentices are doing an apprenticeship in Art Therapy/ Art Psychotherapy.

The course, which is provided by Teesside University, lasts for two years and candidates will finish with the equivalent of a Masters degree.

Simon Hackett, a consultant arts psychotherapist at CNTW, was involved in creating the apprenticeship, which was part of a trailblazer programme with the Institute for Apprenticeships and supported by NHS England.

“This is a real development opportunity, not just for the apprentices but also in the choice of therapies we can offer to people who access our services,” he said.

“Our service users will also benefit. They are getting trained, experienced staff who are working in a person-centred way.”

Art Psychotherapy is a form of therapy that uses creative approaches that can be accessible to all. CNTW offers a range of psychotherapies including art, drama, music and dance movement therapies.

Arts Psychotherapists are trained to work with people in different ways to make therapy accessible, using creative methods to aid in recovery.

Using creative approaches can be helpful for people who may struggle with communication or talking about difficult things or experiences. Arts Psychotherapies can be helpful for children and young people, people with a learning disability or people with severe mental health problems.

The two apprentices are based in their current workplace, with opportunities to work closely with other arts psychotherapists across the Trust. They are also able to get involved in research and evaluation, which CNTW has a strong track record in contributing to nationally.

Stephen Crossley was working as a clinical support assistant when he decided to apply for the apprenticeship.

He said: “I have an arts-based degree but hadn’t been successful in using it in a career. When I started at the Trust in 2018, I was hopeful that at some point in my career I could combine my love for creativity with my love for supporting patients through their recovery.

“When I saw the apprenticeship advertised in the staff bulletin, I couldn’t fight this feeling that I needed to do it. I thought it would be so interesting to help someone communicate their feelings through art and creative means. I’ve never jumped at the chance to do something so fast!”

Talking about the apprenticeship so far, Stephen said: “It’s been a real learning curve. I’m looking forward to learning more and beginning to practice therapy. We all support each other on the course, which is great.”

Rosie Lister works as an assistant practitioner. She said: “When I saw the opportunity to progress my career without needing to sacrifice my income or take out further student loans, I was over the moon. The apprenticeship has been a perfect fit for me, combining my love of art and my passion for helping people. The course is challenging, but I was ready for a change of pace and there is a lot of support available through both the university and CNTW.”

Annette Connor, apprenticeships and career developments lead at CNTW, said: “This is a great opportunity to add to our apprenticeship offer, which wouldn’t have happened without Simon’s involvement in the national programme. It’s exciting to be part of it and we’re very lucky to have this in our region.”

Teesside University have opened applications for the next Arts Therapist (MSc) apprenticeship starting in May. They are hosting a series of information webinars for applicants and employers.

The first webinar takes place on Thursday 8 February at 2-3.30pm. For more information, go to