Our Approach


 The running woman and child, Donna Smith

‘The late D.W. Winnicott was one British analyst who drew particular attention to the need throughout life, for a third area of human experiencing which was concerned exclusively with neither subjective fantasy, nor objective knowledge, but involved a mingling of both. Towards the end of his life, he became increasingly interested in the relevance of these ideas to art and human creativity in general … Art may be necessary for human health and happiness, but it is becoming harder and harder for ordinary men, and ordinary women, to practise it. Not only those in our society who have become ill, old, imprisoned, or mentally disturbed lack contact with creative processes and their restorative powers’ (Fuller, 1984: 2).  Fuller, P. (1984) ‘Foreword’. In T. Dalley, ed., Art as Therapy. London: Tavistock.

During their training with the Northern Programme students hear the case being made for drawing creatively upon knowledge developed during successive periods of the profession’s history in the UK; especially the belief in the power of expression, ideas and practices originating in social psychiatry and the strengthening of psychotherapeutic understanding.  The programme suggests that it could be wasteful of growing professional knowledge to espouse practice based on only one strand of what is a rich history.  Students are asked repeatedly to think about what their clients need and to consider how they can integrate their practice and use evidence in the interests of their clients. Issues that influence the power-relations in the therapeutic relationship are considered in a series of lectures and workshops on class, race, gender and disability.

The wide range of settings in which art therapists have found and created work mean that there has been a long history in the profession of adapting practice to the external circumstances.  Those art therapists who have been successful in making these adaptations to their practice coherent, seem to start from having clarity about their basic approach.

The MA Art Psychotherapy (post registration) aims to help students of this course (who are generally already experienced practitioners) begin to think about research and contribute to the evidence that is needed.

The extensiveness of the models being used mean art therapists can reasonably extend the claim to share evidence of effectiveness produced for other therapeutic approaches.  However, in doing this it seems important not to lose sight of the fundamental elements of our practice: the art making and the therapeutic relationship and the way both of these are anchored by the social economic circumstances of the client’s life and the therapeutic setting.  Many art therapists have passed through training courses in which they have been asked to negotiate backwards and forwards between these elements.  This is certainly the approach of the Northern Programme in its MA Art Psychotherapy Practice (the qualifying course); the MA Art Psychotherapy Research, higher research, Foundation and CPD courses.


Edwards, D. (2004) Art Therapy. London: Sage

Gilroy, A. (2006) Art Therapy, Research and Evidence-based Practice. London: Sage.

Huet, V. and Springham, N. (2005) Award by the Independent Newspaper for innovation in developing a professional research network.

Kalmanowitz, D. and Lloyd, B. (2005) Art Therapy and Political Violence. Routledge Taylor and Francis.

Liebmann, M. (1994) Art Therapy with Offenders. London: Jessica Kingsley

Liebmann, M. (2000) Mediation in Context. London: Jessica Kingsley

Schaverien, J. (1991) The Revealing Image: Analytical Art Psychotherapy in Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, reprinted in 1999 by Jessica Kingsley.

Skaife, S. and Huet. V. (1998) Art Psychotherapy Groups: Between Pictures and Words. London and New York: Routledge.Solomon, G. (2005) ‘Development of art therapy in Southern Africa: Dominant narratives and marginalized stories’, in International journal of Art therapy: Inscape Journal of the British Association of Art Therapists. Vol. 10, 1 June 2005, p. 3-14.

Waller, D. (1993) Group Interactive Art Therapy. London: Routledge.

Wood, C. (1999) ‘Gathering Evidence: Expansion of Art Therapy Research Strategy’, Inscape: The Journal of the British Association of Art Therapists. Volume Four, No. 2. 51-61.

Wood, C. (2001) ‘The Significance of Studios’, Inscape: The Journal of the British Association of Art Therapists. Volume Five, No. 2. 41-53.

Wood, C. (2011) Navigating Art Therapy: A therapist’s companion. London: Routledge.

Wood M.J.M. (1990) ‘Art therapy in one session: working with people with AIDS’ Inscape: The Journal of the British Association of Art Therapists. Winter 27-33