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What is Art Therapy? – Information for service users

On this page you will find information about art therapy this includes what it is and what the benefits can be.

This leaflet may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without the permission of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

  • What is art therapy?

    Art therapy involves using art and discussion with an art psychotherapist. Using art materials can help you to express your thoughts and feelings and it can provide another way of communicating when it is hard to talk. You do not have to be good at art; the aim is not to improve your skills.

    In art therapy you will have time to talk and think about your difficulties with the art psychotherapist and it may help you to understand yourself better, gain insight and for change to occur.

    Art therapy focuses on your feelings and how they affect your life so it can make you feel emotional during and after a session.

    Art therapy takes place as individual one to one sessions or within group settings.

  • What are the benefits of art therapy?

    • It can help you communicate when you cannot talk about your feelings and difficulties.
    • Making artwork about how you feel can help you cope better with your emotions and make them feel more manageable.
    • Through discussion with the art psychotherapist you can gain a better understanding about yourself, this can enable you to recognise your strengths and weaknesses.
    • It can improve self-esteem and confidence.
    • It can improve the ability to relate to others and maintain relationships.
    • It can help you to feel more in control of your emotions, i.e. through your artwork you can gain a different perspective of your difficulties.
    • It may help you to make links between past experience and the here and now.

  • Will the work I do be confidential?

    The artwork made in art therapy and any information shared with the art psychotherapist will be treated as confidential. Health professionals who are part of the team involved in your treatment will be kept informed of your progress.

    There may be times when we need to share information that you have talked to the therapist about, this would only occur if you or another person may be at risk. The work you do in art therapy may also be shared with the art psychotherapist’s clinical supervisor.

    Some details of your care may be recorded either on paper or on computer systems; this information is strictly governed by the Data Protection Act and only accessible by authorised personnel. If you would like more information about this please ask your art psychotherapist.

    All information regarding your treatment is held in accordance with the Caldicott principles, which protects the use of information about service users.

  • How can I be referred to the Art Therapy Service?

    Community Care
    If you are in the community please contact your care coordinator or psychiatrist who can refer you. Following receipt of your referral you will either receive a letter inviting you to an initial appointment or be placed on the waiting list. The initial appointment would be to discuss what art therapy work would involve. Regular reviews of the waiting list are carried out and you will be kept informed of the progress of your referral and how long you will wait to be seen.

    Inpatient Care
    If you are interested in attending art therapy and are currently in hospital please speak with your keyworker or a member of staff on the ward, or directly to the art psychotherapist who can help organise a referral. Following this the art psychotherapist will arrange to come and meet with you on your ward to discuss your current needs and art therapy.

  • Assessment

    Following your initial meeting you may be offered some 'taster sessions' or an assessment period. This is so the Art Psychotherapist can assess your current needs and together you can identify the difficulties you would like to work on in art therapy.

    You will be encouraged to explore the art materials and will be given a confidential folder to keep your artwork in. Your folder will be kept safe by the art psychotherapist for the duration of the assessment.

    Goals of therapy will be identified during the assessment. Duration, regularity, location and times of therapy will be agreed and once established will usually remain the same throughout therapy in order to provide a sense of consistency and security.

    Following the assessment, a report may be written outlining the work that has been done and the outcome. You may receive a copy of this report if you wish.

  • Discharge

    Inpatient Care
    If you are in hospital you can attend art therapy during your hospital stay. When you are discharged from hospital you would either be discharged from art therapy or you may attend up to six sessions of group art therapy as part of your discharge plan.

    Community Care
    Your last art therapy session will be agreed with you where possible well in advance as this can sometimes stir up a lot of mixed feelings.

    Discharge summaries are discussed with, and offered to you, and sent to each member of your care team and GP.

    Discharge may also come about if you frequently fail to attend sessions without notice. In such cases your referrer and Consultant Psychiatrist and/or or you may be referred for further individual or group art therapy as part of your discharge plan.

  • Will travel expenses be reimbursed?

    If you are travelling to attend art therapy in the community or at St George's Park and are currently receiving one of the following benefits:
    • income based job seekers allowance
    • income support
    • working families tax credit
    • disabled persons tax credit

    you will be able to get financial help with your travel expenses.

  • For more information

    If you would like more information about the art therapy service in Northumberland please contact us on 01670 501 851 or for more general information about art therapy visit

  • References

    British Association of Art Therapists

  • What if I have a comment, suggestion, compliment or complaint about the service?

    If you want to make a comment, suggestion, compliment or complaint you can:
    • talk to the people directly involved in your care
    • ask a member of staff for a feedback form, or complete a form on the Trust website (click on the ‘Contact Us’ tab)
    • telephone the Complaints Department 0191 245 6672
    • email Please note that information sent to the Trust via email is sent at your own risk
    • We are always looking at ways to improve services. Your feedback allows us to monitor the quality of our services and act upon issues that you bring to our attention.
    You can provide feedback in the following ways:
    - the quickest way for you to do this is to complete our short online survey at
    - complete a Points of You survey, available from staff.

  • Other formats, references and review

    Further information about the content, reference sources or production of this leaflet can be obtained from the Patient Information Centre.

    This information can be made available in a range of formats on request (eg Braille, audio, larger print, easy read, BSL or other languages). Please contact the Patient Information Centre Tel: 0191 246 7288

    Published by the Patient Information Centre
    2019 Copyright, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
    Ref, PIC/66/0518 May 2018 V4 Tel: 0191 246 7288
    Review date 2020